Civil Air Patrol Lt. Larry Stewart said the wreaths were placed at the base of the headstones for the sixth such ceremony to be held. The public information officer said the CAP has participated annually since the program’s inception.
The mission of the annual service is to remember, honor and teach by coordinating wreath laying ceremonies on the second Saturday of December at Arlington National Cemetary, as well as veterans’ cemeteries and other locations in all 50 states and beyond.
Civil Air Patrol Cadet Lt. David Broach said he is involved in the event each year mainly because the CAP is the host organization and he was a member of the color guard. This year, the 18-year-old Harrison native helped direct the color guard.
There are several people in uniform he admires, including U.S. Army Reserve Maj. Jack Mullinax, who recently returned from deployment in Afghanistan. He was Broach’s first CAP company commander and the day’s featured speaker. He is also a lieutenant colonel in the Civil Air Patrol.
“He was very inspirational to me when I was about 13. He really helped me develop as a young man. He’s partly responsible for the reason I want to join the military. I can never pay enough respect to these guys. This means a lot to me,” he said.
“My grandfather (Demaree Dillon) is an Air Force veteran and one day I hope to follow in his footsteps. It’s an honorary thing I love doing, honoring their sacrifice and everything they’ve done for our country.”
Among the speaker were U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann and state Rep. Kevin Brooks.
Fleischmann said it was his third year to be invited to speak. He reminded the audience of the importance of honoring the U.S. Constitution and the men and women who defended it in the past, and who are defending it now in places around the globe.
“We still have a great, great country. We need to remember that because of the men and women serving in the armed forces, we will continue to be the greatest country the world has ever known,” he said.
Brooks said he was grateful for the opportunity to honor American heroes in their final resting place.
“I am honored to be representing Cleveland, Tenn., — in the state House of Representatives, as commander of the Legislative Squadron of the Tennessee Civil Air Patrol, and as a proud member of the Col. Benjamin Cleveland Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution,” he said. “Our nation, from sea to shining sea, paused this week to remember the unprovoked and surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, causing the United States to declare war on 8 December 1941. Just a few days later the United States declared war on Germany and Italy as well thus thrusting into the Second World War.
“As we remember this week, we honor those memories. We honor because we care. We care because what happened on 7 December, 1941, still matters. It matters to the many and to the few. To honor the service of our American heroes, we have placed fresh wreaths on these headstones.
“Remember that day on Dec. 7 matters personally to one very special guest with us today. I would be remiss for not introducing a true patriot, a local hero, a fellow Clevelander and our only living Pearl Harbor survivor, George Allan.”
Brooks said as one born long after the attack on Pearl Harbor, he felt honored for the opportunity to share and remember with those whose presence showed deep respect for those who died on that day. He also said their presence honors those who are still dying all around the globe in the name of liberty and justice all.
Stewart said the 600 wreaths laid Saturday were a substantial decrease from the 1,440 wreaths laid the two previous years.
“Apparently, there was a major sponsor who didn’t sponsor this year,” he said. “The Chattanooga area is a pretty proud area. We should be able to cover 10, 20, maybe 30 percent of this cemetery every year.”
There are more than 40,000 graves in the cemetery.