Leila S. Case: Wreaths Across America personifies spirit of Christmas

Published 4:10 pm Wednesday, December 26, 2018

A moving and impressive Wreaths Across America event took place at Andersonville National Cemetery last Saturday and it made my Christmas even more meaningful, especially in this season of remembering and giving.
My son Mark Barrett and I were among the more than 500 volunteers from a wide area of this community and beyond that gathered at the Rostrum shortly before noon to remember and honor military veterans for the brief program that was followed by the laying of evergreen wreaths on the graves of our nation’s fallen men and women. It was an exceptional experience and a privilege to participate.
I am so glad we were there — the entire event was beautiful and stirring and when Charles Sellars, superintendent of Andersonville National Historic Site, announced 15,000 wreaths were donated by individuals, organizations, and corporations everyone was astounded. This certainly shattered last year’s number of more than 3,600 wreaths and is 75 percent of the goal of 20,000 wreaths — the number of gravesites at the cemetery.
Bennett Trucking Co. and the Taylor Family Foundation of metro Atlanta donated the lion’s share along with non-profit organizations including Americus’ Council of Safety Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution that remembered and honored loved ones by giving wreaths.
The weather was perfect — sunny yet crispy cool along with a brisk breeze enough to unfurl the American and Georgia flags posted by the Color Guard as well as those representing each branch of the U.S. military. Patriotic music filled the hillside and the program closed with the haunting refrain of Taps played by bugler Mike Saliba of Americus, a veteran of the U.S. Navy who served on the USS Norfolk.
Following the program volunteers spread across the cemetery, laying the beautiful evergreen wreaths tied with red velvet bows on the graves. As instructed by Sellars we repeated aloud the name of each veteran as we laid a wreath on their tombstone. Mark and I added a cheery Merry Christmas — a memorable minute, especially being with my son.
Meanwhile, my holidays grew merrier at Calvary Episcopal Church’s women’s book club’s Christmas celebration hosted by Elise Miller (with an assist from her husband Stick Miller) at their 1880s Victorian-era home on Taylor Street. The couple has updated the interior of the five-bedroom, two-story house over the past year and the results are charming and welcoming. In fact, Santa greeted everyone at the door, inviting them into the festively decorated home.
We mingled and jingled and enjoyed a delicious dinner (everyone contributed) along with their beverage of choice and topped off with delectable desserts — too many.
Of course, the majority attending were Episcopalians, as well as others from throughout the community that are members of other churches because we welcome every one of all faiths. It’s always risky to list names because I’ll surely leave someone out, so please pardon me if you don’t read your name. Those attending, according to my memory, besides myself and hostess Elise, were Abbie Dillard, book club leader, Raye Holt, Dale Undercofler, Annie Hughes, Cindy Dudley, Sarah McLain, Meg Usrey, Millie Cohen, Carey Wooten, Joni Woolf, Daiquiri Tyson, Allyson Drinnon, Marlee Harper, Cheryle McCrary, Jeannie Stanfield, Diane Hall, Mary Beth Rogers, Bobbi Orris, Laura Bauer, Susan Beger, Mary Lopez, Linda Kidd, JoAnne Arnold, Amelia Cohen.
As you move from shopping to parties and the hustle and bustle during this most wonderful time of the year, stop reflect on what the season is really all about. Merry Christmas everyone.

Leila Sisson Case lives in Americus.