Nearly 50 members of the SUNY Empire State College community participated in the Wreaths Across America, a national event honoring deceased veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces.
Organized by the college’s Office of Veteran and Military Education (OVME), SUNY Empire students, faculty, staff, and their relatives, participated in the wreaths event held at held at the Gerald B.H. Solomon Saratoga National Cemetery, Schuylerville, N.Y.
At the Solomon cemetery, volunteers, including those from SUNY Empire, laid some 11,000 wreaths, which covered every grave, including relatives of some of the college’s students, faculty and staff.
Donna Carey, a staff associate, her husband, two children and her sister, laid a wreath her father’s grave and at many others. Charles Hawkins, the father of Carey and her sister, was a second lieutenant in the Army and passed away in July 2017.
“I miss him so much,” said Carey. “This is the first time that we will be participating in the event. It is a good way to go back as a family and have it be an event and occasion to honor and celebrate his life.”
Managing Director Kay Watkins’ father spent his entire career in the military and fought in WWII as a member of the Army, and in Korea and Vietnam as a member of the Air Force, where he retired as a chief master sergeant.
“I am participating in this to both honor my father and pay my respects to our veterans,” said Watkins. “(My father) is buried at San Joaquin Valley National Cemetery in California. I am unable to participate at events at the national cemetery where he is buried, so I was excited to hear about this opportunity.”
Watkins’ son followed in his grandfather’s footsteps and serves in the Air Force and currently is stationed in Germany.
Anita Lindemann, a retention services specialist, volunteered to lay wreaths, including the one for her father-in-law, Ronald G. Lindemann ’96, an Army veteran who served in Vietnam and died in August 2017.
“I was first made aware of this wonderful event while working with OVME, and felt an immediate need to sign up and help,” said Lindemann. “My whole family signed up to volunteer to lay wreaths and remember Ron, in addition to all the other men and women who have served our country.”
Training Coordinator Edward Peck participated with his sister Mary Jo Michaud ’92, a SUNY Empire alumna, whose husband, Gary, an Army veteran who served in Vietnam, is buried at Solomon national cemetery.
OVME Interim Director Desiree Drindak and her husband, Michael, Susan Bruce, OVME’s veteran and military services coordinator, Vanessa Redfield, the college’s associate registrar, and her husband, Jeff, were among the members of the college community who also participated in the event.
Wreaths Across America traces its roots to 1992, when Morrill Worcester, a wreath-maker from Maine had 5,000 extras. Rather than letting them go to waste, Worcester donated the wreaths as a gift of thanks for the service and sacrifice made by America’s veterans.
Held on Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017, more than 1.5 million remembrance wreaths were placed at more than 1,400 sites.