A cloudless Saturday sky opened the morning over Central Louisiana Veterans Cemetery in Leesville this past weekend.

December 14 marked the national tradition of Wreaths Across America, presented in Vernon Parish by First Assembly Christian Academy with the Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs.

Families and friends congregated in a serene pavilion for a memorial program honoring our country’s fallen servicemen and servicewomen. 

Uniformed veterans and scouts stood beside bikers and school children in shared remembrance of lives lost in the name of freedom.

Founded in 1992 by Maine businessman Morrill Worcester at Arlington National Cemetery, Wreaths Across America is an annual ceremony held concurrently in all 50 states, at sea, and abroad to fulfill the mission, “Remember, Honor, Teach.” Each year, hundreds of thousands of wreaths are donated and laid in memoriam of veterans spanning the Revolutionary War to present. 

Christmas is an evocative time of year for such a service, as described on the Wreaths Across America website. 

“In many homes, there is an empty seat for one who is serving or one who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. There is no better time to express our appreciation than during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.”

Indeed, the theme of this year’s Wreaths Across America Day is “Everyone plays a part.” Guest speaker Jonathan Osteen of First Assembly of God noted, “America is great because of our veterans…Words cannot amount to the inexpressible honor that these men and women deserve.

You can stand today because a veteran fell and because many are still standing…Everyone plays a part in remembering those who have served. It is our job as citizens to honor our veterans in every way at every moment that we can.”

In Vernon Parish, veterans were honored and remembered through the efforts of dozens of organizations and individuals. 

Bikers and professional truck drivers traveled many miles to deliver remembrance wreaths to the cemetery. 

First responders with the Vernon Parish Sheriff’s Department and Leesville Fire Department worked closely with school groups, medical personnel, and privately owned recreational vehicle businesses to coordinate parking and shuttle visitors across the highway to the memorial site.

Most touching was the continued service of veterans, notably VFW Post 3106 with VFW Auxiliary Post 3106, who tended to the ceremony location from beginning to end.

Symbolically, as remembrance wreaths were laid in honor of veterans from every branch of our nation’s armed forces, the pounding beat of helicopters thundered overhead—a reminder the task of protecting and preserving freedom goes on, even as we pause to remember those who died and those who continue to risk their lives in service of that mission.