SMOKE RUN — Since 2014, Robin Bowser, of Smoke Run, has been working to ensure veterans interred at Beulah Cemetery in Ramey are remembered for their service, including during the hectic Christmas season.
As the location coordinator for the Wreaths Across America program, Bowser secures, through generous donations from local schools, organizations and businesses, sponsorship for 180 wreaths distributed through the program at the cemetery. She also coordinates wreath deliveries, secures volunteers to place wreaths and organizes a service at the cemetery to remember veterans from each branch of the military, including those taken prisoner and those missing in action, on national Wreaths Across America Day. The observance is held annually on the second or third Saturday in December. Locally a service will be held Dec. 14 at 11:45 a.m. at Beulah Cemetery.
Bowser said the service is very solemn. “When the wreaths are laid, the person who places it, before they do, is to say the name of the veteran. That way the veterans are not forgotten,” Bowser said.
The service will also include a local youth group singing the national anthem and leading the pledge of allegiance to the American flag and members of the Veteran of Foreign Wars Smithville Post and Houtzdale American Legion conducting honor guard services. Seven wreaths, one for each branch of the military and prisoners of war and those missing in action, will be placed at the cemetery’s veterans memorial. The service is held regardless of weather.
Bowser said part of the duties of location coordinator is to educate people about the importance of the Wreaths Across America program that pays tribute to men and women who volunteered their lives and talents for all branches of the military.
Wreaths across America began in 1992 when a Maine man, recalling the impression a trip to Arlington National Cemetery, Washington, D.C., had on him and and his continued belief his life’s good fortune was a result of sacrifices made by the veterans buried there, helped to arrange to honor veterans in the oldest section of the cemetery using wreaths donated by a local company.
Since then, the program has expanded and in 2014, it grew again, to include veterans in all cemeteries where there was interest in participating in the program.
According to its website, the Wreaths Across America program exists to remember veterans 365 days a year, especially those killed during service to the U.S. “We understand we have Veterans Day in the fall and Memorial Day in the spring, but our service members sacrificed their time and safety every single day of the year to preserve our freedoms. 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.”
Bowser said she became involved with the program when it expanded to include all cemeteries. She said she chose Beulah Cemetery because her husband, a military veteran, has family, some of which are veterans, laid to rest there.
“I very much believe in the program’s mission,” she said. The program’s purpose is to “Remember the fallen U.S. veterans, honor those who serve and teach children the value of freedom.
“I also do it because of the veterans. We have no idea what they went through and had to do just to survive. I have heard stories about some my family’s veterans and the experiences they endured were terrible horrific things. Most have gone through a lot more than what they talk about,” she said.
Bowser said she wants local residents never to take veterans’ willingness and work for granted.
She said she fully supports Wreaths Across America. “The people who run this program are so dedicated to it. It is not just something they do once a year. They do what they do to honor veterans and their families.”
Bowser, also a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, is requesting Clearfield County residents support the program on Dec. 14. She requests they either stand along the route the cortege, delivering the wreaths will take, or become part of the convoy.
The truck that will have a police escort will depart from St. Francis School, Clearfield, and travel through Philipsburg making a stop at the Moshannon Valley Veterans Memorial along U.S. Route 322 where a short service will be conducted by members of the Philipsburg Legion, the Army Reserves and the National Guard. It will then travel through Philipsburg, Houtzdale and on to Ramey for the 11:45 a.m. service.
“People are encouraged to be part of the escort or to show support for these special wreaths and the veterans they will honor. They can also stand along the route and show their support by waving flags, signs or honking horns – anything that will say thank you,” she said.
During the service, Bowser said she’ll be openly showing her emotions. “This is my sixth service. I cried at the first one and I’ll cry at this one. I cry every time.”
Anyone interested in starting a Wreaths Across America service at a local cemetery can contact Bowser at (814) 378-6166 for additional information.
Those interested can also visit the Facebook page, Wreaths Across America Beulah Cemetery.