HAMPTON, Va. –
Joint Base Langley-Eustis and Hampton community members gathered together at the Hampton National Cemetery to pay respect to fallen members of the Armed Forces in honor of National Wreaths Across America Day in Hampton, Virginia, Dec. 15, 2018.
The program is held annually, either on the second or third Saturday of December. Participants and volunteers place wreaths at more than 1,000 memorial cemeteries across the United States each year in honor of the service members who have passed away, prisoners of war or missing in action.
“Thanks to the hard work, dedication and support from service organizations, we are able to mark the remembrance [of fallen members of the Armed Forces] and carry out the three fundamental tenants of the Wreaths Across America organization,” said U.S. Navy Capt. Jeffery Chown, Commander Naval Air Forces Atlantic material readiness and supportive readiness director. “That is to remember those who have fallen, honor those who served and teach our children about the value of freedom.”
Hampton National Cemetery encompasses more than 27 acres with 30,000 service members and family members buried within it. Approximately 2,800 live wreaths were donated to decorate the many headstones, while the remaining headstones were decorated with artificial wreaths.
"Hampton is a wonderful community – not just in terms of a great place to live, but also for the support they provide to our Soldiers," said U.S. Army First Sgt. Marcos Rodriguez, 689th Rapid Port Open Element first sergeant. "Joining hands with those living on the peninsula at such an important event encourages our Soldiers to become an integral part of the community while also giving them the opportunity to honor others who have served."
Some Soldiers gave their day simply to remember friends and family.
"When I look across this field of stones, I don't see grave markers – I see people," said Rodriguez. "And if I could speak to them today, I would say ‘thank you. Thank you for safeguarding and providing the freedom that my family and I enjoy each and every day.’"
One by one, carefully placing a green wreath trimmed with a large red bow atop rows of headstones, is Staff Sgt. John Kennerson, 689th RPOE Soldier. He pauses briefly at each marker, says aloud the name carved into the white granite before moving on to the next.
Kennerson has three combat tours to Iraq, two to Afghanistan and one to Kuwait and is a Gold Star family member. He lost his son, Spc. Kevin Kennerson, in service to his nation four years ago at the age of 21.
"This is my way to tell Kevin that I love him and to show him my appreciation for his military service and the sacrifices that he and so many others have given for the freedoms we enjoy," said Kennerson. "If I could hold my son one more time, I would say ‘thank you for your sacrifice and that I could not be more proud of you.’"
Whether it’s volunteering their time to lay wreaths or visiting family members or friends that have passed, the Wreaths Across America organization provides the opportunity for the community to come together and honor service members who have fallen.