Exhibit honoring fallen veterans visits Shawnee Cemetery

SHAWNEE TOWNSHIP — More than 200 people visited the Wreaths Across America Mobile Education Exhibit in its first two hours Wednesday afternoon at Shawnee United Methodist Church.

Lesa Wende, spokesperson for the Shawnee Cemetery branch of WAA, said it was lucky that the exhibit, a truck with a trailer housing a mobile movie theater and mini-tour, was coming through Ohio this year.

“Going out to get support from the community for sponsoring the wreaths has been fabulous, too,” she said. “In three months, we’ve already covered almost 600 wreaths for this year with rollover for next year. And we’re always looking for support and volunteers to lay them Dec. 14 for National Wreath Day.”

WAA ambassador Stephen Tatum said he was impressed with the crowd and the escort by a local fire engine, something that does not happen at every stop the exhibit makes.

“It’s been wonderful,” he said. “It’s amazing to see the community come together. And it’s very special to be able to welcome home Vietnam veterans who maybe never got that because it might unlock an emotion that they’ve kept inside for 50 to 55 years.”

Elida social studies teacher Bill Kellermeyer said he came out to the event, which saw local Scouts raising the flag and a color guard ceremony, as well as the singing of the national anthem, to research ways to teach military history and holocaust courses to his students.

“In the short film they were playing, there was a mother talking about how it gives her comfort to know that laying the wreaths means people will still be saying her son’s name after she is gone someday, which is the idea of keeping someone’s memory’s alive,” he said. “So that’s a positive message.”

Tatum, whose brother Daniel served and sacrificed in 2007, agreed and said the most important thing was advancing the value of freedom.

“There have been times in my life that I regret to say I didn’t really feel like that, but the value of freedom is in the cemeteries,” he said. “They paid the ultimate price for what we as Americans are still able to do when, how and where we like. Honoring that when we place a wreath on a headstone and call the soldier’s name means that they’re not forgotten.”

Anyone interested in sponsoring a wreath at Shawnee Cemetery can donate $17 at bit.ly/44XFUMT or sign up to be a volunteer.

Reach Jacob Espinosa at 567-242-0399.