Col. Randy Roberts (U.S. Air Force, retired) prepares to lay a ceremonial wreath for U.S. military prisoners of war and missing in action during Saturday’s Wreaths Across America event at Sequim View Cemetery. (Michael Dashiell/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

Col. Randy Roberts (U.S. Air Force, retired) prepares to lay a ceremonial wreath for U.S. military prisoners of war and missing in action during Saturday’s Wreaths Across America event at Sequim View Cemetery. (Michael Dashiell/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

Sequim honors veterans with Wreaths Across America

Event mirrors national effort with special service

SEQUIM — Looking out across the cemetery speckled with small American flags, and to the crowd hushed in patriotic solemnity, Tom Coonelly reflected on his years during which it seemed his country was always at war with someone, somewhere.

Answering the call to conflict, he noted, were servicemen and women who never considered the qualifications of those they defended.

“They fought for all of us,” Coonelly said. “They simply believed all Americans are worth fighting for.”

Hundreds of citizens joined Coonelly in paying honor to veterans and active U.S. military men and women Saturday at Wreaths Across America, Sequim’s first participation in the national event.

Members of the Port Angeles NJROTC program present the colors at the 2020 Sequim Wreaths Across America event on Dec. 19. (Michael Dashiell/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

Members of the Port Angeles NJROTC program present the colors at the 2020 Sequim Wreaths Across America event on Dec. 19. (Michael Dashiell/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

The program at Sequim View Cemetery replicates Arlington National Cemetery’s tradition of laying wreaths at grave markers and headstones of military veterans.

Hosted by the Michael Trebert Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Sequim ceremony saw veterans and veteran groups from across the peninsula honor to the cemetery’s 577 veterans.

“The wreaths we lay on their graves are a small token of our respect,” Coonelly, a retired U.S. Army colonel and the event’s featured speaker, told the throng of attendees.

“The veterans interred here served our country, and therefore (served) all of us.”

Col. Tom Coonelly, U.S. Army (ret.), speaks at Saturday’s Wreaths Across America event at Sequim View Cemetery. (Michael Dashiell/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

Col. Tom Coonelly, U.S. Army (ret.), speaks at Saturday’s Wreaths Across America event at Sequim View Cemetery. (Michael Dashiell/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

The Sequim event was one of 2,557 participating Wreaths Across America ceremonies across the nation as volunteers honored an estimated 1.7 million veterans by laying a wreath and saying that veteran’s name aloud, noted Karen Worcester, executive director of Wreaths Across America.

“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,” Worcester said. “We are humbled and forever grateful for the outpouring of support from all across the country.”

In his featured remarks, Coonelly said that, by recognizing these veterans, participants symbolically pick up the torch of freedom, and that “it is our duty to carry it forward and pass it along to the next generation.”

Lance Cpl. Holly Rowan, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, lays a ceremonial wreath at Saturday’s Wreaths Across America event at Sequim View Cemetery. (Michael Dashiell/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

Lance Cpl. Holly Rowan, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, lays a ceremonial wreath at Saturday’s Wreaths Across America event at Sequim View Cemetery. (Michael Dashiell/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

The event not only honored those veterans who have died but those who have served and retired, as well as active military personnel, said presenter Lorri Gilchrist, a retired U.S. Navy commander

“We are here to say thank you; we are honored to know you,” Gilchrist said.

Members of the Mt. Olympus Detachment Marine Corps League offer a gun salute at Saturday’s Wreaths Across America event in Sequim. (Michael Dashiell/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

Members of the Mt. Olympus Detachment Marine Corps League offer a gun salute at Saturday’s Wreaths Across America event in Sequim. (Michael Dashiell/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

Veterans and active service members honored with wreath-laying one veteran from each branch of service representing the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Air Force and U.S. Merchant Marines, as well as prisoner-of-war/missing-in-action personnel.

The event also featured a flag line from Clallam County Legion Riders Post 29, posting of colors by Port Angeles High School NJROTC Color Guard, singing of the National Anthem by Amanda Bacon, the Pledge of Allegiance led by First Class Scout Justice Beebe of Scouts BSA Troop 90 (Sequim), invocation by chaplain Nancy Zimmerman of American Legion Post 62, a gun salute by the Mt. Olympus Detachment Marine Corps League, playing of “Taps” by the Marine Corps League and “Amazing Grace” by bagpiper Ricky McKenzie (U.S. Coast Guard, retired), and a flyover by EA-18G Growlers from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island.

Staff Sgt. Jessica Elizalde-Broders, a U.S. Army veteran, looks to lay a ceremonial wreath at Sequim View Cemetery Saturday. In the foreground are, from left, Cmdr. Bill Benedict (U.S. Navy, ret.), Lance Cpl. Holly Rowan (U.S. Marine Corps veteran) and Cmdr. Joan Snaith (U.S. Coast Guard, Air Station Port Angeles). (Michael Dashiell/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

Staff Sgt. Jessica Elizalde-Broders, a U.S. Army veteran, looks to lay a ceremonial wreath at Sequim View Cemetery Saturday. In the foreground are, from left, Cmdr. Bill Benedict (U.S. Navy, ret.), Lance Cpl. Holly Rowan (U.S. Marine Corps veteran) and Cmdr. Joan Snaith (U.S. Coast Guard, Air Station Port Angeles). (Michael Dashiell/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

Gilchrist echoed remarks Saturday made by former president Ronald Reagan: “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on to them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”

Members of the Clallam County Legion Riders Post 29 create a flag line as a patriotic backdrop to the Wreaths Across America event held. Dec. 19 at Sequim View Cemetery. (Michael Dashiell/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

Members of the Clallam County Legion Riders Post 29 create a flag line as a patriotic backdrop to the Wreaths Across America event held. Dec. 19 at Sequim View Cemetery. (Michael Dashiell/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

Members of the Clallam County Legion Riders Post 29 create a flag line as a patriotic backdrop to the Wreaths Across America event held Dec. 19 at Sequim View Cemetery. (Michael Dashiell/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

Members of the Clallam County Legion Riders Post 29 create a flag line as a patriotic backdrop to the Wreaths Across America event held Dec. 19 at Sequim View Cemetery. (Michael Dashiell/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

Jennifer Groves of Port Angeles helps sons Blake, 5 (standing), and 2-year-old Bryce, place a wreath on a veteran’s grave marker Saturday, as Groves’ stepfather Bobby Yaun looks on. Groves said she attended the event “to teach my men to show honor.” (Michael Dashiell/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

Jennifer Groves of Port Angeles helps sons Blake, 5 (standing), and 2-year-old Bryce, place a wreath on a veteran’s grave marker Saturday, as Groves’ stepfather Bobby Yaun looks on. Groves said she attended the event “to teach my men to show honor.” (Michael Dashiell/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

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