A crowd of more than 100 veterans, active military members, families of the military, and civilians gathered together on Saturday to celebrate Wreaths Across America the Fort Leonard Wood Missouri Veterans Funeral.
The ceremony was held as a part of a national event to honor the fallen, remember the sacrifices of the military, and remind each other that freedom comes with a steep cost.
"The wreaths before you represent our commitment to remember the fallen and to remember those who have served and are serving in the armed forces of our great nation," cemetery director Charles Baxter tole the crowd.
"And to their families, who endure sacrifices everyday on our behalf. And to our children, we want you to understand that the freedoms you enjoy today have not been free and come with a cost that someday, you may have to repay yourselves."
Baxter quoted a famous Ronald Reagan speech, "Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on to them to do the same. For one day, we will spend our years telling our children and children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free."
In the wake of a national tragedy, a moment of silence was held for the fallen victims and families of the Newtown, Conn. shootings.
Brig. Gen. Peggy C. Combs served as the ceremony's distinguished guest speaker.
"We come together here today — military, civilians, retirees, and families — as a community, she said. "A community that has a common bond, which is love of country. We love that our great nation stands for the values of freedom, liberty, and justice."
Combs reminded the audience to not only honor and remember fallen veterans for their sacrifices, but their families as well.
"To our gold star families, to every parent and family members of those who have given their lives for freedom: You have made a tremendous sacrifice for America," she said. "I can't offer any words this morning to heal your sorrow. But I can tell you that we honor your loved ones and you for your tremendous sacrifice for our freedom. Please know that the memory and legacy of your loved ones remains in the hearts of those of us in uniforms and inspires us every day to continue our critical mission."
Seven special ceremonial wreaths representing the Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, Merchant Marines, and Prisoners of War/ Missing and Action were placed on memorials in a ceremony that was coordinated simultaneously at over 750 location across the nation.
"These wreaths are our deep and meaningful tribute to honor and thank our fallen heroes, veterans, and their families," Combs said.
Page 2 of 2 - After the ceremony, dozens of volunteers from the Civil Air Patrol, Pulaski Young Marines, and Boy School handed out wreaths for family members and friends to lay on the graves of their loved ones.