Covites participate in annual wreath laying
By BRITTANY FHOLER
Thousands came out to honor the veterans laid to rest at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery with the annual laying of the wreaths for the Wreaths for Vets held Saturday morning.
Dianne Yoho Campbell was the co-captain with Charlotte Heinze, overseeing the Copperas Cove volunteers who helped lay wreaths for Section 2 of the cemetery.
City staff and members of the Copperas Cove Police Department, as well as students from the Copperas Cove Independent School District, including CCHS DECA and the JROTC, all came together to distribute wreaths to family members and help lay wreaths on graves that hadn’t received a wreath.
“It’s our opportunity to honor those who served the nation and it’s really just about showing honor and respect to those who have served,” Campbell said.
Campbell’s husband, Retired Gen. Charles “Hondo” Campbell, died in 2016 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
“For me, I don’t have to go all the way to Arlington in Washington, so I feel like I honor him by serving here and everyone that served our nation deserves to be honored,” Campbell said. “So, this is a wonderful opportunity for me just to acknowledge his service and sacrifice, but then also the service and sacrifice of all those who are represented here. it’s a wonderful event and I’m just delighted to be a small part of it.”
Edith Natividad led a group of youth volunteers from the Holy Family Catholic Church in Copperas Cove. This year marked her sixth year of coming to help lay wreaths.
“It’s just one way of showing them that we appreciate everything they have done for us,” Natividad said. “Without them, we are not here.”
The tradition of laying a wreath at the gravesite of each servicemember buried or interred at the cemetery began after Jean Shine, founder of the Friends of Central Texas Veterans Cemetery organization, attended the laying of six wreaths representing each branch of military at Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery in 2006. At that time, the cemetery held about 400 graves. Shine then led the efforts to purchase and lay wreaths at every grave, starting a tradition that has occurred every year since.
Her daughter, Hilary Shine, spoke about the importance of the wreaths during a ceremony held before family members and volunteers from all over the community spread out across the cemetery to lay a wreath for each servicemember.
“Something that I have thought for the last 11 years that we have been doing this is so special about this event is that it’s grassroots. It started from our community as a gift to our community,” Shine said. “As you look around at each other, we are all different. Young, not so young. Military, not military, it doesn’t matter. We’re all here united in one purpose, and that purpose is to honor those lives that went before us and to give them our undying appreciation.”
Representing Fort Hood, Maj. Gen. Scott Efflandt, the deputy commander of III Corps and Fort Hood, also shared a brief message of gratitude to the people present.
“What these people stood for is why we are able to celebrate holidays today,” he said of the servicemembers laid to rest in the cemetery. “Today we remember those who have been laid to rest on these hallowed grounds, and we honor their service and commitment.”
Since the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery opened in 2005, more than 8,000 veterans and their family members have been laid to rest here, he said. The wreaths have been laid on each gravestone and at each interment site in the Columbarium for the last 13 years.
“By continuing this tradition today, we ensure these servicemen and women and their families are not forgotten, and we implore those that follow us to do the same,” Efflandt said. “There’s no need for me to comment on what commitment means. You’ve demonstrated that by your presence here today. You respect those that are interned by showing your character and your time.”
Retrieval of the wreaths will occur on January 11.