MAYODAN – Despite cold temperatures and pandemic precautions, about 100 people recently gathered at the Mayodan Municipal Cemetery to participate in the national Wreaths Across America program.
Late last fall when James Hunter Chapter National Society Daughter of American Revolution (NSDAR) members became aware of the opportunity to become involved in the program, it was too late to participate in 2019.
However, they began working on the logistics involved in such an undertaking for Christmas 2020, said former Regent Janice Tate. Immediate past Regent Janelle Johnson spearheaded the efforts and organized the volunteers to place the wreaths on the graves.
More than 325 veterans are buried in the “new” Mayodan Cemetery off Ayersville Road and the “old” Mayodan Cemetery on Third Avenue. Records of these veterans were kept by chapter member Linda C. Vernon, a widely-known genealogist, who died in 2016.
“Her records helped with our outreach to family and friends of veterans buried in the cemeteries,” Tate said.
During the past several months, chapter members contacted family, friends, businesses and others in the community to seek sponsorships of wreaths to place on the gravesites.
Usually, residents from outside the DAR also would be involved but because of pandemic safety precautions, the local chapter limited the laying of the wreaths ceremony Dec. 19 to chapter members and their families.
On a Saturday in November, several members cleaned the cemetery in preparation for the ceremony, then marked the graves where the wreaths would be placed, Tate said.
“The entire community, young and old, have come together to honor our deceased veterans,” said Regent Kim Thompson in her opening remarks. “We thank those of you who volunteered to place the wreaths, those attending this ceremony to honor our veterans and those who sponsored the wreaths for our veteran graves."
She mentioned similar efforts across America.
“The freedoms we enjoy today have not come without a price," Thompson said. "Lying here before us and in cemeteries throughout this nation are men and women who served this nation so that we can live in freedom and without fear.”
Thompson thanked “those who gave their lives to keep us free and we shall not forget you. We shall remember.”
Tate said 346 veterans were buried in the Mayodan cemetery; the DAR honored 277 with sponsored wreaths. As the names were read, members of Boy Scout Troop 562 placed wreaths on several of the graves and saluted at each grave to honor the veterans.
Tate then read a brief history of each representative veteran and a wreath was placed on that grave.
Elder Rhudy D. Bell, who died Jan. 29, 1972, is the earliest serviceman buried in the cemetery. He was an Army private during the Spanish American War. Bell named his daughters after the nurses who cared for him during the Spanish-American War.
Ronald Howard Brewer was born in Rockingham County on March 29, 1936, and he died Sept. 13, 2006. He was a private first class in the Army and a Petty Officer 2nd Class in the Coast Guard during the Korean and Vietnam Wars.
Arthur Sylvester Case was a veteran of the Air Force and Army, and was a lifetime member of the American Legion. He died Feb. 22, 2020.
Coedell William Goins served in the Merchant Marines during World War II, and died Nov. 30, 1990.
Patty Olivia Doss Hendon served in the Navy from 1974 to 1978. She died in an automobile accident on Nov. 23, 2000.
Lewis Jefferson Ore rose to the rank of sergeant in the Marine Corps during the Korean War. He died Sept. 26, 2005.
Pfc.Thomas Dwain Griffin enlisted in the Army and was a tank driver in the 11th Armored Calvary He was 20 and engaged to be married when he was killed in Cambodia on June 20, 1970.
Johnie Lamon Simpson served in the Army medical corps in Europe during World War II. He and other members of his unit were captured and imprisoned in a POW camp in Germany for six months. They were released when the Allies defeated the Germans. He died Sept. 28, 1995. Army MSgt. (Ret.) Skip Davison laid the wreath honoring the 93,129 U. S. servicemen from all branches of the service who were either POWs or missing in action. These individuals have never returned to their families and homes.
“Today we show a united front on national unity all across the United States of America as we remember the fallen, honor those who serve and teach our children the value of freedom,” Tate concluded.
The wreaths represent “our commitment as a United America to remember the fallen,” said Thompson, noting the wreaths honor those who served and are serving in the Armed Forces and “their families who endure sacrifices every day on our behalf.
“We are not here today to decorate graves,” she said. “We are here to remember not their deaths, but their lives. Each wreath is a gift of appreciation from a grateful America.”
Reidsville native Ann Fish has lived in Eden since 1979. Contact her at email@example.com.