Wreaths Across America honors local veterans

Published 9:25 am Friday, December 19, 2014

The Wreaths Across America ceremony at Bogalusa Cemetery on Saturday, Dec. 13, began with a riderless horse, or caparisoned horse, which is a single horse without a rider, and with boots reversed in the stirrrups. The horse was led by its owner, Emile Varnado.

According to Emma Dixon, Bogalusa Wreaths Across America site coordinator, the caparisoned horse in the event represented all the fallen soldiers who have given their lives to serve America and protect the rights of freedom. Participants also noted the fly-over provided by Bogalusa American Legion Magic Post No. 24.

After the Invocation there was a moment of silence to remember the fallen, the prisoners of war, the missing in action and honor those who have served and are serving this great nation’s armed forces was observed. The Bogalusa JROTC Cadet Squad followed the horse into the Bogalusa Cemetery and provided the Color Guard. Fred Magee, commander, Toxie C. Camp No. 32 of the DAV, provided the opening remarks.

Placing of the wreaths was done by members of the DAV. Gloria Kates, newly elected District A city councilwoman, read the proclamation from the City of Bogalusa. It stated the mission of the Wreaths Across America is to remember the fallen, honor those who serve and teach children the value of freedom. The City Council and the mayor of Bogalusa have endorsed and support the Wreaths Across America program.

Retired Lt. Col. Roosevelt Peters enlightened the audience by outlining the symbolism of the wreath.

“The circular wreath that represents immortality, goes back to 776 B.C. and started with the Persians,” Peters said. “The red bow signifies the blood of Jesus. “

Peters highlighted the fact that freedom is not free and referred to the two soldiers who died in Afghanistan on Saturday morning. Peters also noted the number of soldiers who have given their lives in service to America in all military conflicts and wars. He also mentioned the leg wound he received in Vietnam during his two tours of duty and his personal sacrifice to his country and that of his family. Peters received a Purple Heart along with his other commendations for his service.

As an educator, Peters received the 1994-1995 National Teacher of the Year for the Walt Disney Co.’s Outstanding American Teacher Awards for Middle Schools .

Dixon thanked everyone for their participation. She especially thanked Lt. Col. Gavin Guidry of the Bogalusa High School JROTC and the cadets. She also thanked Guidry for inviting Peters to speak to the JROTC on the day before the event.

“I also want to express my deep gratitude to Mike Henley, vice commander of the American Legion and all of the members of Post No. 24 who worked with us, coordinated the ceremony at Ponemah and provided American flags and banners to us,” Dixon said. “I have a deep gratitude to the DAV, including current commander, Fred Magee, and past commander, Calvin Johnson, for all the support the group has provided to Wreaths Across American for the last four years. The DAV group has been placing the ceremonial wreaths at Bogalusa Cemetery since the beginning of the event in 2010.

Dixon also thanked Elbert Buckley Sr. of the Pearl River VFW.

“I know I may easily say that Lt. Col. Peters loves Bogalusa as much as I do, because when I contacted him to speak at the event, he was very gracious in agreeing to come to his hometown of Bogalusa,” Dixon said.

All participants were given the Wreaths Across America official volunteer 2014 card to thank them for their supporting the mission to remember, honor and teach.

In his informal speech Friday to the Bogalusa High JROTC students, Peters emphasized the importance of JROTC and mentioned the dual enrollment program at LSU and Southern and encouraged the students. He also talked about his role as commander of the Jaguar Battalion at Southern University.

A student who graduated in June and completed army basic training and ITC was invited back to the school by Guidry to meet Peters. Peters encouraged her to have medals on her uniform in the next two years. He also cautioned the cadets to not enter the military looking to obtain a Purple Heart. Furthermore, Peters told students of grants, scholarships and funding available to support their college degrees and military careers.