Hundreds turn out for Wreaths Across America in Agawam - News, Weather & Sports

Hundreds turn out for Wreaths Across America in Agawam

Despite temperatures in the teens and a steady stream of light snow in the morning, hundreds paid tribute to deceased veterans.

They took part in the annual event known as Wreaths Across America, a ceremony that was held at cemeteries across the country on Saturday.

Rows of wreaths lined the headstones at the Massachusetts Veterans Memorial Cemetery. The display was part of an idea that was born at Arlington National Cemetery less than a decade ago.

"Our involvement came from going to Arlington," said Brian Willette, who heads up the local chapter of the Military Order of the Purple Heart. "My wife and I and our kids went to Arlington for four years in a row. Then, we came to see what was going on in Agawam."

Willette and his wife, Gina, took it upon themselves to spearhead the effort in Western Massachusetts. Last year, there 1,156 wreaths at the site. That number was up by nearly 700 this year. It made an impact on local veterans like Chicopee resident Arthur Bernier.

"We actually miss these folks," said Bernier. "Some of them we know, some we don't know. They all work together, all of the military branches."

Bernier said Saturday's event meant much more than just recognizing veterans who passed away. It also helps loved ones cope with their loss.

"We recognize that the families right now are hurting, because they are missing their people," said Bernier. "It gives us all a chance to not just unite with the folks that we know, but new people."

The organizers ultimately want enough wreaths to cover the thousands of headstones in the cemetery, but they will not lose site of what the day is truly about.

"Remember, honor, teach is the motto for Wreaths Across America," said Willette. "It provides an opportunity to do just that. Just as we have on Memorial Day or Veterans Day, this is another day to teach our history and that freedom is not free."

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