Veterans honored in wreath ceremony

Dec 15 2012 - 10:49pm


OGDEN -- We will always remember.

That was the message Dennis Howland delivered Saturday at Myers Evergreen Memorial Park.

Howland, a retired Marine sergeant and Vietnam veteran, spoke at the Wreaths Across America ceremony, held for the past 20 years to honor veterans.

Identical ceremonies were held Saturday at 800 locations around the nation and 24 overseas, said Howland, who serves as the State of Utah Veterans of Foreign Wars public affairs officer.

About 30 people attended, most of whom were in military dress uniforms. Howland suspected the ongoing dusting of snow on top of the deeper snow may have kept some people away.

"The men we're here to honor didn't stop and look out the window and say 'Freedom can go out the window: It's snowing,' " Howland said.

The Ogden event was coordinated by Myers Mortuary, The Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Combined Veterans Honor Guard.

Wreaths were placed by the VFW Honor Guard, consisting of retired Army Col. Marlene Summers, retired AIr Force Col. Tim Healy, retired Army Lt. Col. Douglas Furguson, retired Navy Petty Officer Vyron Dowdle, former Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michael Baker and retired Coast Guard Chief Gunnersmate Robert Porter.

"Even to stand here and be talking, it's because of the freedoms we enjoy because of these veterans," Summers said.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War. Utah sent 20,910 soldiers to that war, which represented 8.3 percent of the population, Howland said. Utah was fifth in the nation in numbers of soldiers for that war, he added, which was particularly unusual because there were several deferments available.

In 2008, President Obama signed a law directing that the Secretary of Defense create a commission to honor Vietnam veterans, Howland said.

"It's taken 40 years for the nation to say thanks," he said.

The international wreath event was initially prompted by a donation of 5,000 Christmas wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery in 1992. This year, 250,000 wreaths will be laid down there. Myers Mortuary sponsored the event in Weber and Box Elder counties.

Shaun Myers, of Myers Mortuary, said his company was proud to be part of the ceremony, and it meant a lot to him as an individual.

"I ask you, if you participate and place a wreath at the grave of one of our heroes, take time to stop and read their name," Howland said. "Quietly thank them for their service. You just may be the only visitor they've had in many years. Give them a few moments of your time."

Howland is currently spearheading a project to build a Veterans Memorial Park in Ogden.

"It's a place where someone can sit down with their kids and talk about their fathers and grandfathers," he said.

Other northern Utah cemeteries participating in included the Ogden City Cemetery, eight Box Elder county cemeteries and several in Salt Lake City. Since all of the ceremonies were held simultaneously, every participating cemetery shared the honor of placing the millionth wreath on a veteran's grave or monument.

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