City honors fallen veterans through “Wreaths Across America”

by Martin McConnell

Since its inception in 1992, the Wreaths Across America nonprofit initiative has helped volunteers pay their respects to fallen veterans. On Dec. 17, a group of Independence volunteers met at Maple Shade Cemetery on Brecksville Road to salute those who served.

At 10 a.m., Independence joined over 3,700 communities across the country in a ceremony of remembrance and the laying of wreaths on graves. Mayor Greg Kurtz and Disabled American Veterans State Chaplain Ginger McCutcheon led the volunteers in the ceremony.

“Veterans, active duty soldiers and our first responders, they are all examples of resilience,” McCutcheon said. “They are full of hope for us in times of strife and turmoil. Their protection surrounds us like a circle, and keeps us safe.”

Following the blessing of the wreaths, Kurtz led volunteers in a moment of silence to remember the veterans and service members who had passed.

“The United States of America was founded on ideals of freedom, justice and equality,” Kurtz said following the presentation of the colors. “Our nation stands as a shining beacon of liberty and freedom to the world, and we thank those who gave their lives to keep us free, and we shall not forget them.”

After the presentation of the colors, the group was led by Independence’s Leonard DiCosimo in the singing of the national anthem. DiCosimo also led the group in the Pledge of Allegiance and “God Bless America” later in the ceremony.

The central theme of the service at Maple Shade Cemetery was gratitude. Kurtz led Independence citizens to different areas of the cemetery following his speech. Together, the volunteers decorated the cemetery graves with wreaths for each fallen veteran or first responder.

“The wreaths you see on display are here to represent and honor each branch of the military,” Kurtz said. “May God watch over each and every one of you, all year long, and keep you safe.” ∞

Volunteer Susan Cotey places a wreath at the grave of a veteran.
Photo by Martin McConnell.