Members of the Carroll County community gathered to remember and honor hometown heroes for the third consecutive year Saturday, placing wreaths at the graves of 2,027 veterans at cemeteries across the county.
Babylon Vault Company of New Windsor sponsored the Wreaths Across America event at 23 cemeteries for National Wreaths Across America Day. The noon event was held in conjunction with Arlington National Cemetery and cemeteries across the United States and in Normandy, France.
The 90-year-old, family-owned business became involved with Wreaths Across America three years ago with a goal to place a wreath on every veteran’s grave and has a long tradition of honoring veterans at funerals. According to a Babylon news release, each wreath is sponsored by donations from individuals, veterans’ organizations, civic groups and local businesses.
“What we are offering is the personalization,” Babylon Vault Company owner Donna Babylon said. “These are our neighbors, our aunts and uncles, our grandparents that we’re honoring, and the people that are doing these ceremonies, the people singing the national anthem, they’re all local people, which personalizes this even deeper.”
Wreaths Across America is a nationwide effort to honor fallen veterans and soldiers during the holidays. Arlington National Cemetery is closed to the public this week through Saturday so family members, soldiers and Wreaths Across America team members can place wreaths at grave sites throughout the military cemetery.
“This is going to be our own little Arlington; we’re so excited about the snow,” Babylon said prior to the ceremonies.
According to a Saturday news release from Wreaths Across America, some 1.7 million wreaths were placed on headstones at more than 2,500 locations.
“The 2020 theme for Wreaths Across America has been ‘Be an American worth fighting for,’ and this year I have been blessed to see my fair share,” said Karen Worcester, executive director of Wreaths Across America, via the release. “The determination of the American people and their commitment to the mission to Remember, Honor, Teach, made it possible for us to move forward this year, safely. We are humbled, and forever grateful for the outpouring of support from all across the country.”
In Carroll County, Immanuel Lutheran Church in Manchester participated in the event for the first time. Following the ceremony outside the church, located at 3184 Church St., a wreath was to be placed at the grave of each veteran in the church cemetery and at the nearby New Lutheran Cemetery on Locust Street.
These cemeteries include more than 300 veterans of every war, from the Revolutionary War to the present, according to a Immanuel Lutheran Church email.
A handful of local and state dignitaries were in attendance as guest speakers at various cemeteries across the county. Maryland Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford spoke at Meadow Branch Cemetery in Westminster. Four county commissioners — Stephen Wantz, Ed Rothstein, Richard Weaver and Eric Bouchat — also agreed to participate.
“I’ve been doing this for a long time, and I’m humbled every time to be able to place a wreath and providing that eternal gratitude for that someone who has given their life. Knowing that their family is still mourning by their side, or at their grave. Take that moment,” said Rothstein, R-District 5, who also spoke at Meadow Branch.
Babylon hopes Carroll’s event helps to educate the younger generations about the sacrifices local veterans made during previous wartime situations.
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“History is being taught because different perspectives are coming in. The age is not there, the teachers are younger and we haven’t experienced war,” Babylon said. “My parents’ generation lived it, they understood it, and as each generation gets younger and younger, it gets one more step removed … A lot of these people lost their lives so that we can enjoy our life today and I think that’s being missed as life goes on.”