Jay Copp 2014-01-15 10:30:05
A record-breaking foot of snow fell a few days before, and a cold rain that day crusted the snow covering. After taps came a reverential silence at Fort Snelling National Cemetery in Minneapolis. Then as the 2,000 wreaths were laid on the veterans’ tombstones, the sharp crunch of boots and shoes was the only sound. “It was very respectful, very quiet,” says Fay Wallin of the Red Wing Lions Club. “Everyone realized we were in a special place.” Red Wing Lions and other groups laid the wreaths in December 2012, a ceremony undertaken in the holiday season to underscore the notion that the sacrifice of veterans is not forgotten even at Christmas time. The ceremony was part of Wreaths Across America, held in every state and 20 overseas cemeteries. The tradition dates to 1992 when Morrill Worchester, the owner of a wreath company in Maine, placed surplus wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery. The practice caught on nationally after a photo of the decorated graves went viral. Nearly 100 volunteers placed the wreaths at Fort Snelling. The Red Wing Lions Club, which meets at the American Legion, sponsored 45 of them. Wallin’s late father was a World War II veteran. A champion ski jumper, Clint Dubois was slated to compete in the 1944 Winter Olympics. But the games were canceled because of the war, and Dubois served as an anti-air craft gunner. Wounded in an air raid, he wore a cumbersome back brace the rest of his life. Dubois didn’t talk about the war. But Wallin, 67, knew how he felt about his country. At parades, “he stood up and saluted the flag,” she says. Buried in Kingman, Arizona, her father still was a presence at Fort Snelling. “I wish I could have laid a wreath on his grave,” Wallin says. This past December Lions put a wreath on the grave of Howard Perkins of Red Wing. His widow, Evie, sent the club a check for the wreath. Howard, who died in 1984 at the age of 62, fought under Patton in Germany. He lost his foot and part of his leg when he charged into a home that was booby-trapped. After the war, Evie met Howard in Red Wing, a small town, and they married in 1948 and had five children. He worked in an office for a tannery. His crude plastic prosthetic was difficult to wear. Despite the pain, he “tried to live like everyone else,” says Evie. Knowing he loved to skate, friends once bought him “a beautiful pair of skates,” recalls Evie. Bad leg and all, surprising even himself, he glided down the ice with his pack of friends. Evie regularly decorated his grave with flowers until she learned the cemetery removed them when the grass was mowed. She didn’t plan to be there for ceremony, but she says she’s “extremely pleased” to know the wreath honors his sacrifice.
Published by International Association of Lions Clubs . View All Articles.
This page can be found at http://digital.lionmagazine.org/article/Hearts+Over+America/1609870/192299/article.html.