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Wreaths honor fallen vets

Local residents and guests from as far away as Denver, Colo., came to honor the dead at the annual Wreaths Across America ceremony held beneath the cold, gray, December sky. Even at noon, the cemetery’s turf was sodden from an overnight rain.

The consecrated field that is Fountain Hill Cemetery was host to the solemn ceremony Dec. 18 that culminated in representatives of each military service, including the Merchant Marine, affixing evergreen wreaths to wire tripods or Christian style crosses set in a line.

As volunteers from the audience were given wreaths to put in place, the master of ceremonies read out the names of service men and women from each branch of the military who had died and were buried on the 13-acre wooded hillside.

In a new feature of the annual service, a separate wreath was dedicated to the men and women killed in a bomb attack earlier this year as they attempted to conduct the massive evacuation of civilians from Afghanistan. The name of each member and their affiliated armed force was read.

After the brief ceremony, residents took wreaths from cardboard boxes staged along the pathway leading from Graham Street up to the large gazebo festooned with patriotic bunting. Then individuals made their way into the garden of grave markers covering the hill-side where the bearers each placed a wreath on the final resting place of a patriot.

United States Marines from India Battery, 3rd Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve (Gunnery Sgt. Michael Rivera and Gunnery Sgt. Levi Eisenhour) and also from Bethlehem Detachment #284, Marine Corps League (Leo Fernandez and Glenn Rader) and from the Lehigh Valley Division of the U.S. Navy Sea Scouts (Graham Rose and Adam Stratz) provided the honor guard for the ceremonies.

A former U.S. Army soldier, George Van Doren, provided the field music, playing the plaintive notes of “Taps” at the conclusion of the ceremonies.

Press photos by Douglas Graves Sea Cadet Graham Rose of the Lehigh Valley Division of the Sea Cadets, Leo Fernandez of Allentown, Glenn Rader of Upper Macungie Township, Adam Stratz of Pocono Mountain Junior High School, and Douglas Graves of Upper Macungie Township and Commandant of Bethlehem Detachment #284 of the Marine Corps League.
Laying of wreaths became a family affair for one family. Pictured is Gail Mackay holding her son Harrison, both visiting from Denver, Colo. From left to right are Isabella Dejesus, Elizabeth Crenko, Wayne Crenko, who is holding his nephew, Lucas Dejesus, and Jean Crenko.
Press photo by Terry Fistner Army veteran George Van Doren plays taps for the ceremony as he has done for the past six years.