May 10, 2014 was the annual LHCP Wreath Laying at Arlington National Cemetery. 21 people gathered at Arlington National Cemetery. Participants this year in laying the wreath were Mr. David Buck, Petty Officer First Class Jeremy Grimord, TSgt Jason Kingham and Mr. George Gray.
As is the tradition with LHCP, we lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown and then lay flowers at the gravesites of men and women who have given the ultimate sacrifice in defending our nation.
The group reflected on their feelings about the day.
Jason and Jennifer said they were honored to commemorate our fallen warriors at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. George stated it was a privilege and honor to lay the wreath and remember the sacrifice of those buried in this hallowed place. David said it had to be the experience of a lifetime. Michelle said that today rekindled the pride that she felt the first time she put on her uniform. Jo Ann stated it was emotional and a lovely recognition of people. Brittney said it leaves you with a loss of words.
Asked about the favorite thing of the day, Jason and Jennifer responded that Section 60 was special. Section 60 is dedicated to those service members who have given the ultimate sacrifice in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. Reading the biographies of each fallen warrior gives us a glimpse into their lives, which made it a more personal experience. Casey and Debbie stated they were very proud and deeply moved to witness their son, TSgt. Jason Kingham, lay the wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown.
When asked about the day in general, the group responded that it was a special day to remember. The Tomb of the Unknown, the sentry’s watching over those known only to God shows a dedication to the people who serve our country and shows what it actually means to love your country.
At the end of the day, the group paid their respects at the Pentagon Memorial. It was a touching moment of reflection to finish this day.
On Saturday, May 25 2013, a little after 3:00pm, I was standing at the top of the stairs with 3 other individuals preparing to participate in the Landstuhl Hospital Care Project’s (LHCP) Arlington National Cemetery Wreath Laying ceremony. As I wait for the Honor Guard, I reflect on the day.
It started early with breakfast at IHOP with Brian and Karen Grimord. Brian and Karen then took my husband, Paul, and me over to see a few of the monuments in Washington, DC before we headed to Arlington National Cemetery. We visited the Lincoln Memorial, where we were reminded of many events in history, then we visited the Korea Memorial, which gives you the feeling you are walking with the soldiers as they emerge from a tree line. We then, went to the Air Force Memorial which reflects the missing man formation as three spires rise into the air. We also visited the World War II Memorial, where I wished my Dad, Pop and Uncle Larry could have seen this tribute to those from past wars. One young man came up to us and wanted to know from one of our group, “Can you tell us your story?”
From the WWII Memorial, we go to the Pentagon Memorial where Flight 77 flew into the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. This memorial honors both those on Flight 77 and those in the Pentagon that were killed that day. We were there to pay respects to one of our LHCP Honorees, Daniel. Each shipment of comfort and care items is shipped in Honor of a military member who has given the ultimate sacrifice. We read Daniel’s biography, laid flowers by his bench (Daniel liked blue flowers) and said a prayer. His family is unable to visit, so we paid our respects. We then had time to walk through the Memorial area.
We then go to Arlington National Cemetery. We meet our group at Section 60, one of the larger areas in the cemetery. Section 60 has the largest number of resting places for our service members killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. The night before, at Brian and Karen’s house, we prepared bouquets of flowers for each of our Honorees. At each gravesite, one person read the biography and we were introduced to this individual and a small part of their life. It became real, it became emotional. We took the time at each Honorees gravesite to become acquainted with them through their biography and prayed for their family and their loss. We saw many friends and family of the fallen in the cemetery, where they came to spend the day with their loved ones.
Around 2:45pm, we make our way to the Tomb of the Unkown. Standing with me at the top of the stairs is Marine Corporal David Chirinos, who represents all of our wounded Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines. Standing next to David is Army Sergeant Jeremy Strader, who represents the Combat Medics and all of the medical personnel who care for the wounded and injured at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center or Combat Hospitals in Iraq and Afghanistan. Next to me is Ruwan Arseculeratne, who represents all of the sponsors who give so freely to support LHCP. Their steadfast support allows for many good things to be done for our injured and wounded. And me, I represent all of the volunteers who have a heart for service for our military. As I look out over the Tomb and see all of the grave markers, I am reminded of the vast treasure of talent, creativity and ingenuity that our country has lost. I am also reminded of words in a poem by Archibald MacLeish, “The Young Dead Soldiers”.
The Young Dead Soldiers do not speak Nevertheless they are heard in the still houses. (Who has not heard them?) They have a silence that speaks for them at night And when the clock counts, They say We were young, We have died, Remember us. They say We have done what we could But until it is finished, it is not done. They say We have given our lives But until it is finished, no one can know what our lives gave They say Our deaths are not ours They are yours They will mean what you make them. They say Whether our lives and our deaths were for peace and a new hope or for nothing we cannot say It is you who must say this. They say We leave you our deaths Give them their meaning Give them an end to the war and a true peace Give them a victory that ends the war and peace afterwards Give them their meaning! We were young, they say We have died Remember Us.
The Honorees we remembered this year with the Wreath Laying Ceremony are a representation of the many who have given their lives for freedom. How will we give their lives meaning? How will we remember them?
Landstuhl Hospital Care Project has long honored today’s war veterans by sending shipments of personal care items to wounded warriors recovering from their wounds at the Army medical center in Germany.
On May 22, members of the nonprofit, headquartered in Stafford County, honored yesterday’s heroes by participating in a wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery.
“It’s hard to put into words what an honor it is to pay tribute to the real heroes, the ones that have actually died and made the ultimate sacrifice for the country,” said Army Sgt. Joe Santolla. “I don’t feel worthy of doing it.”
Santolla was one of four participants who took part in the ceremony on behalf of Landstuhl Hospital Care Project. The soft-spoken Santolla was wounded by a roadside bomb in May of 2009 and suffered a traumatic brain injury. He was talked into participating in the wreath laying ceremony by his wife and daughter.
“I really didn’t want to do it to begin with. I didn’t feel like I earned it,” he said.
Combat medic Michelle Gray, a veteran of both the Air Force and Army Reserves, took part in a motorcycle ride that benefited Landstuhl Hospital Care Project in early May, where she met the organization’s president, Karen Grimord. It was during that ride that Grimord asked Gray if she would like to take part in the wreath laying ceremony.
“I don’t think there’s any words,” she said before the wreath laying. “I can’t describe how it feels.”
Paul Russo, who served as project’s civic/corporate representative for the ceremony, is a veteran of the Air Force and National Guard who currently works as a local veterans employment representative for the Department of Labor.
“I think it’s unbelievable that I’m here today to do this,” he said. “It’s a privilege to be part of this.
For more information on the Landstuhl Hospital Care Project, visit its website at LandstuhlHospitalCareProject.org.