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A tribute to veterans: Flagler has its first Wreaths Across America ceremony
News-Journal - 12/17/2019
An American Flag flapped gently in the breeze as World War II veteran Johnny Vidota played "Taps" on his bugle, the solitary and solemn notes carrying across the Craig Flagler Palm Funeral Home & Flagler Memorial Gardens where more than 400 veterans have been laid to rest.
The classic hymn "Amazing Grace," led by the Coastal Florida Police & Fire Pipes & Drums, closed the ceremony of remembrance, which included the placing of wreaths to represent each branch of the U.S. Armed Forces. Escorting the wreath-bearers were members of the Punishers Law Enforcement Motorcycle Club, Flagler Chapter, and the Knights of the Inferno Firefighters Motorcycle Club.
Joe Vece, president of the Knights of the Inferno, said club members participate in the annual Wreaths Across America ceremonies in Volusia County, and he was proud to see it happen in Flagler County this year for the first time.
"We were asked by the Wreaths Across America committee to assist in placing the wreaths and to escort the veterans placing the wreaths at the flags," said Vece. "This is very important to us. We try to do what we can to let people know we're never going to forget."
Flagler County's inaugural Wreaths Across America ceremony on Saturday was due largely to the tenacity of Janet Search and a chance meeting in October 2018 at a restaurant in Maine. Search said she was approached at the restaurant by the daughter-in-law of Wreaths Across America founder Morrill Worcester who introduced her to the program.
Search said she couldn't stop thinking about that conversation and this year she became a location coordinator for the national remembrance movement, bringing to Flagler County its first official Wreaths Across America ceremony.
"I looked it up, it stuck with me and I knew I had to put it together for Flagler County," said Search.
Bringing together families and strangers to honor those gone but not forgotten, the volunteers fanned out and each was asked to speak the name of the veteran as the wreath was placed.
Robyn Smith of Team RWB Daytona has been participating in Wreaths Across America ceremonies for several years in Ormond Beach and was accompanied by several others Satruday' inaugural event in Flagler.
"This year was great so our local Team RWB members could do it in Palm Coast," said Smith, who hopes it sends a message to future generations. "It's quite a great education for younger people to understand that veterans never quit serving."
Watching as his 6-year-old son, Josiah Yorio Grennier, and fellow Cub Scout from Pack 281 Austin Schlesier placed a wreath on a grave site, Joshua Grennier was moved by the magnitude of what the boys were learning.
"I think it's very important that kids participate in events like this. You know, these men and women that died protecting our country are heroes and they need to be remembered as such," said Greenier. "It's good for our kids to pay remembrance and tribute to these men and women who essentially allow us to live how we live today."
Pleased by the attendance and support, Sal Passalacqua, general manager of Craig Flagler Palms Funeral Home & Flagler Memorial Gardens, said he plans to expand the event next year.
"It's been our honor to do it and I'm glad we can bring it here to Palm Coast and Flagler County to honor our fallen veterans," said Passalacqua.
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