FALLS CREEK — Saturday was the third year for the Wreaths Across America at Beechwoods Cemetery, along Route 830 in Washington Township. And despite the gusts of cold wind that battered the hill upon which the cemetery sits, a crowd of dedicated volunteers stood silently in respect for those who have served and died in the U.S. military forces.
Marilyn and Jack Tully are the location coordinators behind this local WAA event. They are Gold Star Parents, having lost their son SFC Michael Tully, who was killed in action on Aug. 23, 2007, in Iraq.
They began a short program with a moment of silence to remember, as Marilyn Tully noted, “the fallen, the prisoners of war, the missing in action, and to honor those who have served and are serving this great nation’s armed services.”
Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and Cub Scouts stood in front of the chapel and facing the American Flag as flag bearers presented and posted the military colors. The Scouts the led all in attendance in the Pledge of Allegiance.
On this one day, in communities across the nation, Wreaths Across America events were taking place. The WAA program began with Morrill Worchester and his donation of 5,000 wreaths to Arlington Cemetery in Washington, D.C., in 1992.
“Now Beechwoods is one of the 1,422 location sites that participate with Wreaths Across America and you all are part of the more than 1.5 million wreaths being placed on veterans’ graves today,” Marilyn Tully said. “What a great way as a nation to ‘Remember, to Honor and to Teach.’”
She went on to say that “In cemeteries, throughout this nation are men and women who gave their lives so we can live in freedom and without fear.
“Our country was founded on the ideals of freedom, justice and equality. It continues to stand as a beacon of liberty and freedom to the world. We thank those who gave their lives to keep us free and we shall not forget you. We shall always remember.
“Today, we show a united front of gratitude and respect across the United States of America as we remember the fallen, honor those who serve and teach our children the value of freedom,” Tully said.
As the program continued, wreaths were hung on wreath holders beneath the military flags what moved wildly in the breeze. The first wreath was presented by John and Sarah Tully, both Army veterans, and the son and daughter-in-law of Marilyn and Jack Tully. Their wreath was in memory of all those who served or are serving in the U.S. Army.
John Fritz, Western Section Adjutant from American Legion Post 17 in DuBois, presented the wreath in memory of those who served or are serving in the U.S. Air Force. Wilfred Neubert, a World War II veteran and a representative from American Legion Post 95 Brockway, presented the wreath for those who served or are serving in the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Merchant Marines.
Richard Wantuck, of the DuBois Honor Guard, presented the wreath for the U.S. Marine Corps; R.E. McClure, of the Reynoldsville American Legion, presented the wreath for the U.S. Navy; and Richard Coccimiglio, Past Dept. Commander of Post 17 DuBois VFW, presented the wreath in honor of the many U.S. servicemen from all branches whose last known status was either POW (prisoner of war) or MIA (missing in action).
This year, Beechwoods Cemetery was the recipient through WAA of nearly 500 wreaths to place on veterans graves. The wreaths were delivered to Cooper Farm Market as Bob Cooper provided a drop location and helped with the unloading of the wreaths. Tully noted that the wreaths arrived on Tuesday, also a bitterly cold day. Being the last stop for the truck delivering the wreaths, it was discovered there were more than 200 extra wreaths to unload. Those attending Saturday’s event were asked to take as many of the extra wreaths as they needed to place on veterans’ graves in other cemeteries.
Before the many volunteers moved to staging areas throughout the cemetery to collect wreaths to place on gravesite, Tully encouraged them to brush off the snow from the gravestone so they could read the name of the veteran and say it aloud as they placed the wreath and thank them for their service. “It’s a small act that goes a long way toward keeping the memory of our veterans alive for it’s said that a person dies twice: once when they take their final breath, and later, the last time their name is spoken.
“When we lay the wreaths, we are not remembering their deaths, but their lives. These live green wreaths symbolize our honor to those who have served and are serving in the armed forces of our great nation and to their families who endure sacrifices every day on our behalf,” she said.
Besides the Scouts, other groups represented included Marine Corps League, VFWs, American Legions, Auxiliaries, Son of the American Legion, Legion Riders, Humanitarian Riders, Honor Guards and the Christian Riders, as well as individuals who wanted to take part to show their respect for the country’s veterans.
Following the event, the Beechwoods Presbyterian Church provided a lunch location for all those volunteering to help honor veterans’ graves.
As the wreaths, which come from Maine, were donated by WAA this year, any fundraising from 2017 will go to purchase wreaths in 2018, Tully said. She thanked the many businesses, clubs, churches, organizations and individuals who have donated saying that “without those dollars we couldn’t do this.” Anyone wishing to donate can contact Jack or Marilyn Tully at 375-4684 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
DuBOIS — DuBois Area School District Superintendent Luke Lansberry expressed appreciation to parents for sharing their thoughts and questions on a potential proposal that may send fifth-graders to the middle school in the near future.
“I’d personally like to thank those of you that took the time to come out to share your thoughts for doing that,” Lansberry said at last week’s meeting. “That’s incredibly important when it comes to planning for the future of our school district. There’s a lot of things that we’ve been kicking around. First of all, no decision will be made tonight. There is no vote tonight whether we’re going to move the fifth grade to the middle school or not, so you can take a deep breath on that. That’s not happening tonight. Tonight, the purpose was to share what that would look like if we did explore that.”
Assistant Superintendent Wendy Benton has been studying this idea.
“If you ask me, nobody knows it better than her, having served as a principal in that school, and worked on the front line, knows that place inside and out,” Lansberry said. “If we were going to explore that option, there isn’t anybody in this community that could do a better job of determining whether or not that’s even a possibility than Mrs. Benton. She’s been working extremely hard gathering lots of information. She shared some of that information with her faculty, her previous specialty from the middle school, so that she could gain some insight into what their thoughts are and dove into our website to gather and survey information, so they could share their thoughts and concerns because we felt that that was important for her to do that before we even talk about it at the board level as an option because all of those pieces are important.”
Lansberry said it’s important that these conversations continue to be held publicly because it would be “incredibly irresponsible” to not do so.
“When we look at the elementary schools, and we think about the needs of one particular school that you’ve been reading about, Wasson Elementary, that hasn’t had much work done to it really in 40 years,” Lansberry said. “You start to grapple with the question of what do we do with it? Whether it’s renovation, or building new, or whatever we’re going to do with it, it would be incredibly irresponsible to not look at the entire system to determine whether we need to go with work for K-4, K-5, K-6, because if you look at the numbers, five, four, three, two, one, K, across the district, the enrollment continues to decline.”
“When that middle school’s sitting right now at a little over 60 percent capacity, and we know that ideally 85 percent is where it should be, and we know that five years from now that number of 60 is going to shrink because we’re sending less and less kids into that big facility behind us, we have to look at it,” Lansberry said. “Because if we go out and do anything with the elementary schools, anything at all, and then five years later say, ‘Why did we do that? Now we have all this space right here in the middle.’ That’s not being fiscally responsible. We have to look at it. Doesn’t mean we have to do it, but we absolutely need to look at that as an option and say, ‘What is the right thing to do?’”
All of the information and the questions are very important in how the district determines the path it’s going to take, Lansberry said.
“Bottom line, it’s all good. Thank you for coming out,” Lansberry said.