Wreathes Across America honors vets in Fountain hill
“This is for my sister, who is buried here,” Joan Glacy said as she placed an evergreen wreath next to a tombstone. She said she is also an Army veteran (1958 to 1960).
“Her name was Margerie Weaver. She was in the Army from 1958 until 1961. She died of Lupus.” Glacy’s voice was tight with emotion.
Glacy was one of the many people who attended the Wreaths Across America ceremony recently at the Fountain Hill Cemetery on Graham Road. The hillside cemetery sits in relative seclusion on a wooded lot overlooking the town of Fountain Hill.
The ground was still wet from the snow melt from a recent storm. Still, it was a very cool morning for those who attended, with temperatures in the low 40s. The ceremony started at noon.
Organizer Ron Frankenfield led the ceremony, which included a call to remember the fallen soldiers, airmen, sailors, Marines and merchant marines. He asked for a special remembrance for the servicemen and women who have committed suicide.
A detail of the Naval Sea Cadets provided one color guard, while the Bethlehem Detachment 284, Marine Corps League, provided another. There was no firing detail at the ceremony.
Interim Pastor Mike Button of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Bethlehem offered prayers.
George Van Duren provided music and played taps as the color guards saluted by dipping their organizational flags, being careful to keep the American flags aloft where stiff breezes tugged at the fabric.
Frankenfield invited members of the audience to volunteer, one-by-one, to affix a wreath to one of the several white wooden crosses that represented the separate branches of the military forces.
Marine Gunnery Sgt. Cameron McNeill stepped forward to place one of the pine-scented wreaths on the cross representing the U.S. Marine Corps. Other volunteers did the same for the other crosses.
A contingent of Nam Knights, Lehigh Valley Chapter, led by Marine Corps Master Gunnery Sgt. Tim Parsons, provided logistical support by distributing boxes of wreaths for the public to then use to decorate veterans’ graves throughout the cemetery.
Army veteran Joe Kempfer (1968 to 1970) was there to lay a wreath at the memorial stone of his grandfather, Ellis Kempfer. His grandfather served in the Mexican Punitive Expedition with Brigadier General John “Black Jack” Pershing in the 1916-17 border war.
Kenneth Butz Elementary School student Alyssa Sweeney came to the cemetery to participate in helping lay wreaths. She was there with her mother, Brianna Sweeney, the administrative officer for the USNSCC (Sea Cadets) Lehigh Valley Division.
In 2014, according to Wikipedia, volunteers placed over 700,000 memorial wreaths at 1,000 locations in the United States and overseas, including the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor, Valley Forge and the National September 11 Memorial at the World Trade Center in New York City.
During that year, volunteers were able to place wreaths in all sections of Arlington Cemetery for the first time. In 2016, this number increased to 1.2 million wreaths being placed at more than 1,230 cemeteries across the nation.
Frankenfield has been holding the Wreaths Across America program for seven years. He said 335 wreaths were placed during the ceremony.