OGDEN -- The freezing temperatures did little to stem the flow of tears at an emotional Wreaths Across America ceremony Saturday morning at Evergreen Memorial Park.
Before about 20 onlookers, veterans representing each branch of the military laid wreaths at the foot of the corresponding military branch platform markers that have been erected encircling the cemetery flagpole.
During the 25-minute program, a sixth wreath was also placed near the flagpole for POW and MIA service personnel not fully accounted for.
The six fresh wreaths placed at the cemetery -- each punctuated with an American flag, bright red ribbon and respective military branch flag -- were among an estimated 220,000 wreaths expected to be placed in similar cemetery ceremonies across the country Saturday, officials said.
Wreaths Across America started in 1992 with the donation and laying of 5,000 Christmas wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery. The ceremony, held yearly on the second Saturday in December, has since spread across the country.
This is the second year Myers Mortuaries has sponsored the event on the local level, said Katie King Brockman, community relations director for Myers Mortuaries.
"This helps me fulfill a promise I made to several of my comrades in Vietnam that did not make it home," former Marine Dennis Howland said in explaining his desire to participate in the ceremony as a presenter.
"It is to remind people at holiday dinner tables there is an empty chair," said Howland, task commander for the state of Utah Veterans of Foreign Wars.
"It is designed to remember the military family," Howland said of the somber ceremony that included a rifle salute by VFW Post 1481 and the playing of Taps by bugler Jim Simone. Simone also played the coordinating military branch music.
The program included brief remarks from Myers Mortuaries Director Shaun Myers and retired Air Force Master Sgt. Roy Stuart, of South Ogden.
"I am an American fighting man. I serve in the forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense," Stuart said, citing Article I of the Military Code of Conduct, a copy of which he received in 1958 upon entering the Air Force.
Stuart said he cherished the time he spent in the military and, through the media, receives satisfaction in seeing servicemen and women recognized by family and friends as they deploy and return from their missions.
But in 1964, upon returning home after a one-year assignment at the Royal Helanic Air Force Base in Seuda Bay, Crete, Stuart said, no band was playing and only his wife met him at the airport.
Stuart said he can recall during that time period walking down a Salt Lake City street in uniform and being spit on.
"If you wore a uniform, you were a warmonger," he said of the view of those who protested during the Vietnam conflict.
But the actions of those who despised him did not deter him from serving his country.
"I will never forget that I am an American fighting man responsible for my actions and dedicated to the principles which made my country free," Stuart said, citing Article VI of the Code of Conduct.
"May we honor those who serve so faithfully," Stuart told those gathered.
Myers said the mission of Wreaths Across America is to remember, honor and teach others in collectively thanking military families.
Myers said Evergreen Memorial Park and Ogden City Cemetery, where a similar program was held Saturday, are two of 400 cemeteries across the country participating in the ceremony.