by Senior Airman James Richardson
JBER Public Afffairs
12/21/2015 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaksa -- The
Fort Richardson National Cemetery, at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson
hosted the annual Wreaths Across America Day, Dec. 12, 2015.
Wreaths Across America is a nonprofit organization founded to continue
and expand the annual wreath laying ceremony at Arlington National
Cemetery. More than 1,000 cemeteries across the nation participated,
with volunteers laying an estimated 700,000 wreaths on veterans' graves.
U.S. Army Alaska commander Maj. Gen. Bryan Owens spoke on behalf of JBER
at the cemetery to honor veterans who have made the ultimate sacrifice.
"We do this to remember the fallen, honor those who serve and their
families, while teaching our children the value of freedom," Owens said.
The cemetery was established during World War II to bury those who died
in the Aleutian Islands Campaign and other Pacific Theater campaigns.
Today, the cemetery has 4,527 interments and it continues its tradition
of honoring service members from Alaska who have served in every
"I've never experienced a community as connected to its service members
as Alaska," Owens said. "The relationship shared between Alaskans and
[the] military is truly one of a kind."
Since the start of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, 22 service
members from Alaska have been killed in action. Owens went on to share
the stories of two fallen Soldiers, Sgt. Daniel Woodcock and Spc. Shane
Woodcock, who served under Owens, was killed by an improvised explosive device in Iraq in 2007.
"I will always remember Sergeant Woodcock not only because he was one of
my Soldiers, but because he was an outstanding young noncommissioned
officer, husband and father of two beautiful young children," Owens
Woods, from Palmer, Alaska, and two fellow Soldiers were killed when an
improvised explosive device detonated under their Humvee in Iraq in
Owens referenced what the Woods family wrote of their son.
"His follow Soldiers knew him to be a real warrior, putting duty and
honor above self. His strong belief in his mission to protect what we
have at home; and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ is a continued
inspiration to those who knew him."
The conclusion of General Owens speech was highlighted by a poem Woods wrote
"To serve as a Soldier, there is nothing more noble or more true,
To defend your home and ones you love, until your life is through,
To live and die for your brothers, could not be more right,
To honor those who marched before, to carry on their fight,
To protect the innocent and the fair, that they may know no strife,
To keep them safe at any cost, even if the price be thy own life,
Some to return without their limbs, others their lives, some their very soul,
Of all the men to march to war, nobody, not one to come back whole,
To lie in bed late at night, and wonder why not me,
To weep for a brother who didn't make it, his home never again to see,
To wonder if anyone really understands, or even cares at all,
That they live because others died, that good men had to fall,
To wonder if the banner brave men saluted every day,
Is treated with rightful honor, in memory of those who marched away."
National cemeteries host Wreaths Across America annually on the second Saturday in December.