WASHINGTON COUNTY — As the rainy day turned to sunshine, the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Civil Air Patrol and the St. George Composite Squadron held two ceremonies Saturday in honor of Wreaths Across America Day where a total of 552 wreaths were placed on the graves of deceased veterans buried in Washington County.
The Wreaths Across America is a foundation where service members lay wreaths down on graves. It begins at noon in Arlington, and, all across America, these ceremonies start in unison, said Civil Air Patrol 2nd Lt. Aros Mackey who hosted the ceremony.
At 10 a.m., against a gauzy gray layer of clouds, around 60 people huddled beneath umbrellas as rain poured from the sky at the Tonaquint Cemetery in St. George.
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Videocast by Melissa Anderson, KCSG and St. George News
“This ceremony is symbolic of people who have served and created freedom for us,” Mackey said. “I think it’s important that we keep doing these or our freedom will slip away into the night.”
This is probably one of the best ways to honor veterans and for them to honor their fallen friends, he said.
Of the 534 veterans buried in the Tonaquint Cemetery, 75 are new this year, St. George Mayor Jon Pike said. Along with remembrance of those fallen, continuing our support of the military, veterans, police and those who are protecting our lives is important to keep in mind as well, he said.
“We’re facing a little drop of rain here today,” Pike said. “Think of all that they went through. You know it’s fitting, I think, that we stand out here and get a little wet, thinking about them and hopefully we’ll be undaunted, unshaken, and unbroken in our support of those who are protecting our lives.”
Washington County Search and Rescue Commander Casey Lofthouse sang “God Bless America Again,” and at the closing of the ceremony, attendees walked through the wet grass and placed wreaths on the graves of 534 deceased veterans.
By 1 p.m., the billow of clouds had spread and sunshine shone onto the Shivwits Cemetery at its opening. Glenn Rogers, a council member of the Shivwits Band of Paiutes, spoke about what it means to have the Native American veterans honored for this national ceremony. As he spoke, a red-tailed hawk swooped in from the eastern sky, which is a symbolic bird for the Native Americans.
“That red-tailed hawk came to see what we were doing,” Rogers said. “It’s a good sign. That is a special bird to us.”
This is the third year that the Daughters of the American Revolution have provided wreaths for the 18 veterans buried at the Shivwits Cemetery and the first year for the Shivwits Cemetery to be officially recognized as a Wreaths Across America cemetery, said Lee Ann Riddoch, who serves as the regent for the Color Country Chapter of the Daughters of American Revolution.
“These veterans got ignored and forgotten that they were out here,” Riddoch said. “We purchase all the wreaths. We are trying to find bigger sponsors so that we can recognize more veterans.”
One of the men honored was Crawford Snow who served in the 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam. He was one of three men from Washington County who died in Vietnam, said Rogers, Snow’s nephew.
“I used to walk these hills with him when I was a kid,” he said pointing toward the west horizon. “He died on Mother’s Day on Mother’s Hill in Vietnam.”
Vietnam Veteran Clarence John, also known as “Beans,” pointed to the memorial with the Paiute words “See Veets Eng Soeets eehype” inscribed; their meaning: Shivwits soldiers who were here and now are gone, he said. John said when he thinks of his time serving in Vietnam, being neglected upon return is what stands most vivid in his memory.
“When I came home from Vietnam they were having big demonstrations. There were no welcoming signs,” John said with a slight smile. “People called us bad names and it made us want to get rid of our uniforms. A lot of people came back missing limbs or hearing. It’s nice to see these veterans being recognized without having to suffer anymore.”
Glenn Rogers’ son, Mark Rogers, of the Shivwits Band of Paiutes, beat a drum and sang the Native American “Honor Song” and “Flag Song.” He said he’s been playing and singing music since he can remember.
“It can get emotional singing at a ceremony like this,” Mark Rogers said, “but you have to set aside the emotion, and when you’re done, you can pick up your sorrow.”
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