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Wreaths placed at graves of veterans at Bel Air Memorial Gardens

Ashlee Petersen, Ann Collins, Mary Schuey and Mary Petersen stand behind the grave of their grandfather and father after they placed a wreath on it Saturday as part of Wreaths Across America at Bel Air Memorial Gardens.
Ashlee Petersen, Ann Collins, Mary Schuey and Mary Petersen stand behind the grave of their grandfather and father after they placed a wreath on it Saturday as part of Wreaths Across America at Bel Air Memorial Gardens.(Erika Butler/The Aegis)

Military members who served know what holidays like Christmas mean, said a Harford County state senator who served three year-long tours.

“For our lost comrades and their families, it’s particularly difficult,” Sen. Bob Cassilly, who retired from the U.S. Army, said at a brief ceremony at Bel Air Town Hall Saturday as part of Wreaths Across America. “’There is no greater love than ‘He laid down his life for a friend’ and I feel honored to take part in this wreath placing.”

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At town hall, youths escorted veterans to place wreaths for each branch of the military at the town’s veterans monument at the corner of Lee Way and Hickory Avenue.

About 700 wreaths were placed on veterans graves at Bel Air Memorial Gardens after the town hall gathering. It was one of 1,628 wreath ceremonies across the world Saturday, including another one in Havre de Grace.

Tre McInnes and Garrett Rose, both 10, were among those who presented wreaths.

They were there with their fathers and their Churchville travel baseball team.

Geoffrey Rose has been in the Maryland Air National Guard for 18 years and Tim McInnes served six years in the Marine Corps.

Eric Griffin of Cub Scout Pack 800 salutes with Rick Turkin after placing a wreath at the veterans memorial next to Bel Air Town Hall as part of Saturday's Wreaths Across America Ceremony.
Eric Griffin of Cub Scout Pack 800 salutes with Rick Turkin after placing a wreath at the veterans memorial next to Bel Air Town Hall as part of Saturday's Wreaths Across America Ceremony.(Erika Butler/The Aegis)

“This is something we thought would be good to expose the kids to,” McInnes said.

“We want to do more than just baseball with our kids, and we thought this would be a good team-building exercise,” Rose said. “We want to take part in honoring the sacrifice of the men and women who passed away.”

The small crowd from town joined dozens of other volunteers at the memorial gardens for another brief ceremony, where Col. Adam Hilburgh from Aberdeen Proving Ground encouraged the volunteers to walk among the graves, say the names of the deceased.

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“They all just want the company,” Hilburgh said.

He cited the Army phrase “If it ain’t raining, we ain’t training” and thanked the volunteers who attended Saturday.

“For those who served, we don’t get the chance to only do it in 68 degrees with a breeze,” Hilburgh said.

Soldiers, airmen, Marines, no matter what branch of the military, they serve in any type of weather.

Chloe Wallace, a second-grader at Norrisville Elementary School, places a wreath on a veteran's grave Saturday during Wreaths Across America at Bel Air Memorial Gardens.
Chloe Wallace, a second-grader at Norrisville Elementary School, places a wreath on a veteran's grave Saturday during Wreaths Across America at Bel Air Memorial Gardens.

The memorial gardens is the epitome of America, the epitome of service, a place where all the military members who are buried there are equal. It doesn’t matter if a private is buried next to a sergeant, a captain or a general.

“Every general who’s next to a private, that’s exactly where they want to be because that’s who they served with,” Hilburgh said.

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Chloe Wallace, 7, a second-grader at Norrisville Elementary School, placed a wreath with her mom, Rhonda Allen.

“We have lots of grandparents, great-grandparents who served,” Allen said. “We do this as many times as we can.”

They hand out sandwich bags with a small plastic army soldier, and a handwritten note that says: “Thank you for your service and sacrifice to our country. We appreciate you each and everyday. May this soldier remind you that you are loved. Thank you. God bless you and the USA.”

“We just want to thank the people for their services,” Wallace said.

Mary Petersen, of Edgewood, and her mom, Mary Schuey, daughter Ashlee Petersen and sister Ann Collins laid a wreath at the grave of Mary’s father, William Collins, an Army veteran who served four years.

It was emotional for both daughters, whose father died in May 2016.

They placed other wreaths Saturday, not just their father’s.

“We want to honor them and their sacrifice. If we didn’t have them, we wouldn’t have what we have,” Ann Collins said.

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