West Point Cemetery participates in Wreaths across America

Story and photos by Kathy Eastwood Staff Writer

December 6th, 2018 | News, News and Features
West Point honored those who made the ultimate sacrifice during the 9th annual Wreaths across America ceremony Dec. 1 by placing donated wreaths at the West Point Cemetery.
  A member of the Northern Rockland Navy JROTC, presents a Gold Star member with a wreath Dec. 1 at the beginning of Wreaths across America where participants receive wreaths to place on their loved ones’ gravesite.

The West Point community took part in Wreaths across America, a non-profit 501-C3 volunteer organization that relies on donations to bring Christmas wreaths to national, state and military cemeteries around the country and honoring our veterans, Dec. 1 at the West Point Cemetery.
The tradition was originally inspired when founder Morrill Worcester saw Arlington Cemetery as a young boy and that scene, especially the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, left quite an impression on him.
Worcester owned Worcester Wreaths and one day in 1995, the wreath company found themselves with a surplus of wreaths as they were nearing the end of the season.
Worcester remembered the time he visited Arlington Cemetery and realized he had an opportunity to honor our country’s veterans.
Once plans were underway, a number of other individuals and organizations stepped up to assist with a local trucking company voluntarily providing transportation to Arlington Cemetery to lay wreaths at our national cemetery. This annual tribute went on in virtually secrecy until 2005 when a photo of the stones at Arlington adorned with wreaths and covered in snow circulated around the internet.
From there, thousands of request poured in from all over the country from people wanting to help Arlington and to emulate the Arlington project at their national and state cemeteries. And the rest is history. From this humble beginning, Wreaths across American is now in its 26th year.
Wreaths across America has one simple mission, to remember, honor and teach. The organization is committed to teaching younger generations about the value of their freedoms, and the importance of honoring those who sacrificed so much to protect those freedoms.
Dr. Todd Crowder, currently an associate professor in the Department of Physical Education and former Army Track and Field coach, met Jackie McNally and her husband Dan in 2010 and they set out to establish West Point Cemetery as a registered cemetery.
West Point’s Wreath across America ceremony in 2010 consisted of a small contingent of just six people who braved a driving snow and rain storm to remember and pay respect at the gravesites at the West Point Cemetery with approximately 70 wreaths placed.
Since that day, a group of dedicated volunteers maintained the passion to sustain the vision to one day fill the cemetery with wreaths. In 2015, that goal was reached and every year since they have filled or nearly filled the cemetery with wreaths each Christmas season.
During the ceremony, Crowder began by presenting wreaths to Gold Star families, both locally and non-locally to place a wreath on their loved ones’ gravesite or one they choose in memory of their loved one.
Lou Vozzo and Phil Murray, graduates from the Class of 1974, placed wreaths on 12 of their classmates’ graves.
Crowder, Scott MacPherson and Paige MacPherson placed wreathes on the graves of 2nd Lt. Matthew Ferrara, Class of 2005, 1st. Lt. David Bernstein, Class of 2001 and retired Col. Wally Williams, Class of 1948.
“Two extremely important values that Mr. Worcester believed in were both the importance of teaching others and also that of honoring the efforts of the selfless, noble members of our military,” Crowder said. “He emphatically believed in the importance of educating the younger generations about just how imperative it is to acknowledge those who have served and assisted us. So, it is fitting that we are gathered here today, as a community, as a family, at West Point, at an institution that teaches not only leadership, but also how to truly be a leader.”
After the wreaths were placed, the faint and familiar sound of taps was heard in the background, played by Delaware Valley High School student Brenna Cavallaro.