Wreaths Across America comes to historic cemetery

On Saturday, Dec. 17, members of the Tomochichi Chapter Daughters of the American Revolution, the Historic Clarkesville Cemetery Preservation, Inc. board and other community members gathered to honor the 25 veterans who rest in the Old Clarkesville Cemetery.

The ceremony and wreath laying service was in conjunction with Wreaths Across America, an organization that seeks to remind citizens of the sacrifice made by those who served. The mission of WAA is to Remember, Honor and Teach. On Dec. 17, in more than 3,400 cemeteries in all 50 states, volunteers place wreaths on the markers of known service members.

The ceremony at the Old Clarkesville Cemetery was enhanced by the participation of members of the White County High School JROTC who acted as color guard and placed wreaths on behalf of several branches of service.

The ceremony was led by Susan Gwaltney, Regent of the Tomochichi Chapter, DAR. After opening with the pledge and prayer, Clarkesville resident Darrin Johnston sang a beautiful rendition of the National Anthem. 

Wreaths representing each branch of military service were laid at the cemetery flagpole. Several of the wreaths were placed by Tomochichi Chapter members who had loved ones who served in a particular branch and several wreaths were placed by veterans.

Anne Purcell, widow of Col. Ben Purcell placed a wreath in memory of those who were POWs or MIA. The late Col. Purcell was held prisoner for five years in Viet Nam. 

Greetings were brought by Larry Whitfield on behalf of the Joseph Habersham Chapter, Sons of the American Revolution. Clarkesville Mayor Barrie Aycock welcomed and addressed the assembled crowd. Board Chair of Historic Clarkesville Cemetery Preservation, Inc. E. Lane Gresham also brought greetings.

”We were so honored to be selected as a Wreaths Across America site for the first time. Several of our board members are also Tomochichi Chapter NSDAR members; we appreciate the partnership opportunities to remember our servicemen interred at the Old Clarkesville Cemetery,” Gresham said. “We look forward to continuing this tradition in the  years to come.”

Larry Whitfield closed the ceremony by playing taps on the bugle.

At the ceremony’s end, attendees fanned out and placed a wreath on each veteran’s grave that was previously marked with a small United States flag.

“This was a remarkable turn-out for our inaugural Wreaths Across America effort,” said Tomochichi Chapter Regent Susan Gwaltney. “Our members were enthusiastic because working with the Old Clarkesville Cemetery really intersects with the DAR’s mission to honor our veterans and be involved in historic preservation. Considering that some of the veterans we honored today served 200 years ago is remarkable when you think about it. Our local history is long and storied; our chapter was delighted to be involved.”

For more information on the Wreaths Across America program visit www.wreathsacrossamerica.org 

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