BUHL — Every December, Christmas wreaths are laid out in cemeteries across the country to honor fallen veterans. This past weekend, The Magic Valley POW/MIA Awareness Association hosted its "Wreaths Across America" event to ensure no veteran is forgotten.
“It is a worldwide endeavor," said Katie Bryant, the Public Relations Officer for Magic Valley POW/MIA Awareness Association. "It’s pretty amazing to think that 3,000 cemeteries are participating.”
At the Buhl West End Cemetery on Saturday, roughly 100 people attended to honor the nearly 1,000 veterans which are buried there. The Association laid out approximately 980 wreaths in Buhl West End Cemetery and 200 at the Snake River Canyon National Cemetery.
“We need to know that our veterans haven’t been forgotten," said Bryant. "We need to know the sacrifice that they gave while they were serving and even after they were serving and their transition into civilian life.”
As important as the day is to honor those veterans, it also serves as an opportunity to pay respects to the families and let them know that their loved ones are remembered.
“They must be assured, or have that assurance that that sacrifice is remembered and should always be remembered and that we share that loss," said Mark Stephensen, the Vice Chairman of the National League POW/MIA Families. "We know what that empty chair at the dinner table means.”
Mark is one who is all too familiar with the feeling of loss, as his own father was declared MIA (Missing in Action) for 21 years when his aircraft was shot down flying a reconnaissance mission in North Vietnam in 1967. His remains were identified and returned in the summer of 1988.
With the having been wreaths just laid out, the hope is to have them there until the end of January. Officials are encouraging people to visit the cemetery during that time to serve as both an educational resource and as a chance to show appreciation to all fallen service members.
“Come out to the cemetery, any of these cemeteries and look at these wreaths," said Stephensen. "Parents, bring your kids out and show them these wreaths because, yes, Christmas can be fun, but it can be very solemn for people who have had losses.”