MILITARY WREATH PARTICIPANTS … These ten people stepped up to weather the cold, hang a memorial wreath and honor all those in the military past and present. From left to right are Bob Clark Army veteran as chairman of West Unity Legion Riders/Gold Star – Blue Star program; U.S. ARMY Alexander Miller; S.MARINE CORPS Dallas Timberman; U.S. NAVY Austin Barker; U.S. AIR FORCE Ken Krouch; U.S. SPACE FORCE Arnold Lebowsky of U.S. Air Force; U.S. COAST GUARD Tony Steffes; U.S. MERCHANT MARINE Veteran Noah Allomong; Joann and Karlee Redd placing the Blue Star Banner for son and brother serving in the USMC. Not pictured – Steve Marvin who placed the Gold Star Wreath in honor of his brother Mike. (PHOTO BY REBECCA MILLER, STAFF)
By: Rebecca Miller
Each December since Wreaths Across America began in 2007, Veterans and their families and communities have gathered across the country to remember the fallen, honor those who are serving, thank the veterans and never forgot those who are still missing.
Mike Nofziger, a resident of West Unity and 1976 graduate of Hilltop High School, was living in Maryland near his wife’s family when this tradition began. That year he helped to lay 5000 wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery.
In 2009 the family moved back to West Unity and in 2012 he was instrumental in getting the Floral Grove Cemetery registered to participate with Wreaths Across America.
He did not get to lead the ceremony that year because as a truck driver, he was asked to deliver a truckload of wreaths to Arlington. He asked his nephew Rudy Hernandez to lead that very first one at Floral Grove since he could not be present.
In 2013 he remembers that it was extremely cold blizzard weather with snow on the ground and negative wind chills. “I was surprised when 30 to 40 community members and veterans showed up, as I expected to see two or three with such horrible weather,” Mike said. “I realized then that this community gets it!”
Nofziger is right. Northwest Ohio communities turn out every year to stand in the frigid temperatures in order to honor the men and women who have served and are serving in the Military forces of our country.
This year was no different, as the morning began around 40 degrees with a steady rain and dropped to 31 before the event was concluded.
The veterans asked to hang the ceremony wreaths, West Unity Mayor Don Leu, American Legion Riders, family members of veterans buried at Floral Grove, and others gathered to visit, get acquainted and spend moments of silence together for this special set apart time.
Around 11 a.m. Mr. Nofziger gathered everyone to give instructions for the laying of the wreaths and everyone present quietly dispersed to find the boxes of wreaths placed around the cemetery.
After finding their own family members and honoring them, each person walked around to make sure every veteran had a wreath placed for them. From Civil War to the present day, no one was forgotten.
Gathering back by the flagpole, the ceremony was held with each branch of the military as well as Gold and Blue Star families and POW/MIA.
Some of the participants were in uniform and some were not, some were veterans, some are on active duty and some were family members, but they all held a special place in their hearts for those who serve America in the military.
Mr. Nofziger called out their names and each one respectfully hung the wreath, stated that it was to remember all those in the service which they represented, and paid tribute with a salute or a pause.
The emotions that could be seen on the faces of all who were present were poignant and precious. Their bodies may have been shivering with the cold, but their hearts were all warmed in the unity of others who understand.
Rebecca can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org