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Vets Issues

U.S. Air Force Master Sergeant Logan C. Westmoreland lays a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Monument at the Prescott National Cemetery Saturday morning.

PRESCOTT – At the same time President George W. Bush led the nation in honoring America’s fallen military veterans at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia Saturday afternoon, a contingent in Prescott followed his lead.

During a Wreaths Across America Ceremony at the Veterans Administration’s Prescott National Cemetery, some 50 to 70 veterans and/or civilians gathered for an hour late in the morning in bitterly cold, windy weather to lay holiday wreaths on the cemetery lawn’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier monument.

The crowd – which featured the Gold Star Moms, Blue Star Moms of Central Arizona, Scottish American Military Society, Prescott High School’s Air Force Junior ROTC, and American Legion members – congregated to remember deceased U.S. military personnel. They also honored prisoners of war and those missing in action, as well as surviving veterans and the men and women still serving in the Armed Forces.

Participants at Prescott’s ceremony, including Mayor Jack Wilson, joined thousands of other citizens at memorial sites around the nation to praise veterans and America’s core values of freedom, justice and equality.

“We thank those who gave their lives to keep us free and we shall not forget you,” said Steven Linzy, a member of the Patriot Guard Riders, a military honor support group, in a prepared master of ceremonies speech. “When you see a veteran or an active duty member of the Armed Forces, take a moment to say ‘thank you.’ We owe them our way of life.”

In the middle of Linzy’s speech, veterans and active-duty military personnel, among others, took turns laying wreaths at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider in memory of those who have served or who are serving in the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard and Merchant Marine.

Another group put down a wreath in remembrance of the estimated 93,852 U.S. servicemen and women from all branches of the military whose last known status was either as a Prisoner of War or Missing in Action.

“As a nation standing together, we can defeat terrorism, hatred and injustice,” Linzy said at the end of the speech. “Thanks to our veterans, we have the freedom to do just that.”

Lettie Connell, member of the American Legion Riders, or ALR, in the Verde Valley, was one of those who contributed a wreath Saturday. Connell said the ALR’s current role is to take American soldiers home when they return from Iraq and Afghanistan.

At least 4,000 veterans are buried at Prescott National Cemetery. Next year, Connell said she will help the Patriot Guard Riders cover all of the cemetery’s head stones with wreaths.

“We only have 10 wreaths this year from our group because we started late,” she said.

Jim Edgmon, founder of the Arizona Veterans Highway on Interstate 17, said he went to the ceremony to remember those in the military who have died in the line of duty, as well as veterans who are still serving overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“We can never show enough love and respect to our heroes in the American military,” he said.

Contact the reporter at dcook@prescottaz.com

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