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Wreaths Laid To Honor Departed Tampa Bay Veterans

Volunteers laid wreaths on the graves of hundreds of thousands of veterans on Saturday as part of a national event known as Wreaths Across America.

More than 1,400 cemeteries throughout the U.S. participated in the event to honor and remember America's fallen soldiers. 

In Tampa, volunteers laid more than 700 wreaths in a cemetery many people don't even know exists. 

TheAmerican Legion Post 5cemetery is a small cemetery just off Kennedy Boulevard. Roughly 750 veterans are interred there, beginning with veterans of the 1898 Spanish-American War.

Rosemary Hamblin of the American Legion Auxillary organized the wreath laying. She said the event was a way of honoring and remembering the sacrifice of our veterans, even during the busy holiday season.

"You know everybody gets so caught up of running around, doing their shopping, doing this," she said. "A lot of these graves are very old, so if we don't come out and do something to honor them they just lay here."

Volunteers at the American Legion Post 5 were asked to say the names of the deceased veterans as they laid the wreath on their grave stone.

"They say a person dies twice: the first time when the body actually dies, a second time when no one says their name anymore," Hamblin said. "It's our way of remembering them when we read the name on the stones."

Many of the volunteers were themselves veterans or people who have family members that are veterans.

Legion member and U.S. Air Force veteran Charles Badishbaugh said that Wreaths Across America is a way for him to honor the sacrifice his fellow veterans have made.

"All of us, really, would like to be remembered for being here, feel like we were useful," Badishbaugh said. "This is one of the steps in my life that puts me on the road, I hope, to having someone remember me."

Local Boy Scouts of America troops and Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) members helped to put on the event and place wreaths. Hamblin said it was important to involve the children as a teaching moment about the people who make freedom in America possible. 

"We want to let them know what these graves are here for and about the wars," she said. "It's surprising. Kids really do latch on to this stuff and they remember it."

The Tampa Wreaths Across America event was held simultaneously with a similar wreath-laying at Arlington National Cemetery for more than 400,000 veterans.

Memorials were also held at Bay Pines National Cemetery and Dunedin Memorial Cemetery in the Tampa Bay area.

Roberto Roldan is a senior at the University of South Florida pursuing a degree in mass communications and a minor in international studies.
Andy Lalino serves WUSF Public Media as a journalist, video producer/editor, and graphic designer/animator. He’s authored pop-culture journalism articles, contributed weekly columns for Tampa Bay nostalgia websites, and published features for Fangoria magazine.