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Saturday February 13th, 2016 2:04AM

'Wreaths Across America' honors Gainesville's deceased vets

By Jerry Gunn Reporter
GAINESVILLE - Gainesville's veterans who rest at Alta Vista Cemetery were honored Saturday at a local 'Wreaths Across America' ceremony.

The cold steady rain did not stop a large number of veterans, their supporters, and sponsoring groups from showing up for the mid-day observance to place evergreen wreaths on 450 veterans' graves, part of a nationwide observance.

The Gainesville Civil Air Patrol and the General Longstreet Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy hosted the event regardless of the weather according to chapter president Gail Mangum.

"Our military troops never stopped because of the rain," Mangum said. "It just speaks honors to them that the folks are willing to come out and stand in the rain to show them appreciation for what they've done."

The rain did force ceremony participants indoors at the cemetery mausoleum, where veterans spoke in honor of fallen service members who are buried at Alta Vista. Veterans of all branches of the Armed Services presented wreaths at the mausoleum, and then distributed wreaths to volunteers who placed them on graves across the cemetery.

"Wreaths Across America sends them down and you secure sponsors for them at $15 a wreath," Mangum explained. "They ship them down here so they're ready for the ceremony. Since this happens in December a lot of people think of it as a Christmas event but it really is a year around effort to secure the wreaths and honor the veterans from all of America's wars and conflicts."

Jack Marty with Gainesville's C.A.P. Composite Squadron 160 said the Civil Air Patrol began Wreaths Across America event at Arlington National Cemetery. It has branched out to over 700 locations nationally and to more than 20 locations internationally.

"The program started about 1992 with Arlington National Cemetery," Marty said. "The Civil Air Patrol was the very first group to assist in laying the wreaths at that ceremony. Today we have over 500 squadrons laying wreaths at a variety of cemeteries nationwide."

According to Marty Gainesville Civil Air Patrol members raised a little over 200 wreaths this year between the Marietta National Cemetery and the Alta Vista Cemetery.

The Civil Air Patrol, a U.S. Air Force auxiliary group, provides youngsters, who become cadets, with aerospace education and teaches them about community service. Their various outdoor activities include search and rescue for downed aircraft. Navy R.O.T.C. cadets from Gainesville High School served as the honor guard for Saturday's event, with music provided by the C.W. Davis Middle School Band.
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