Pen­cader wreath cer­e­mony hon­ors mil­i­tary vet­er­ans

Newark Post - - LOCAL NEWS - By JOSH SHAN­NON jshan­[email protected]­pub.com

A group of Ne­wark­ers paused Satur­day to re­mem­ber the sac­ri­fice of lo­cal vet­er­ans with a wreath-lay­ing cer­e­mony at the Pen­cader Her­itage Mu­seum.

Vet­er­ans and other com­mu­nity mem­bers laid wreaths honor­ing the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Mer­chant Marines, POW/MIA and the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary War sol­diers who died at the Bat­tle of Cooch’s Bridge.

The event at Pen­cader was one of more than 1,400 sim­i­lar cer­e­monies hap­pen­ing across the coun­try and at U.S. mil­i­tary ceme­ter­ies abroad as part of Wreaths Across Amer­ica.

The pro­ject be­gan in 1992 when the Worces­ter Wreath Com­pany of Har­ring­ton, Maine, had a sur­plus of wreaths and ar­ranged to have them laid on graves at Ar­ling­ton Na­tional Ceme­ter y. The tra­di­tion con­tin­ued largely un­no­ticed un­til 2005, when a photo of the wreaths went vi­ral on­line.

The at­ten­tion led to an in­flux of funds and vol­un­teers, and the pro­ject ex­panded. To­day, the pro­ject distributes more than 1.5 mil­lion wreaths.

“The free­doms we en­joy to­day have not come with­out a price,” Col. Mike Wil­gen said at the Pen­cader cer­e­mony. “In the ceme­ter­ies through­out this na­tion are men and women who gave their lives so that we can live in free­dom and with­out fear.”

Pen­cader be­gan par­tic­i­pat­ing in Wreaths Across Amer­ica sev­eral years ago to honor the ap­prox­i­mately two dozen Amer­i­can sol­diers who died at Cooch’s Bridge, the site of Delaware’s only Rev­o­lu­tion­ary War bat­tle. The mu­seum is lo­cated on part of the Cooch’s Bridge Bat­tle­field.

The fallen sol­diers are be­lieved to be buried some­where on the bat­tle­field site. The ex­act lo­ca­tion is un­known, but un­der a new preser­va­tion agree­ment, the state is plan­ning arche­o­log­i­cal ex­plo­ration in at­tempt to find their graves.

Bill Con­ley, who co­or­di­nated Satur­day’s event, noted that jour­nals from Rev­o­lu­tion­ary War vet­er­ans in­di­cate that five of the sol­diers died at the foot of Cooch’s Bridge.

“Any time you go over that bridge, just stop and think that right there in that vicin­ity, five Amer­i­can colo­nial sol­diers paid the ul­ti­mate price as they tried to stop a pro­fes­sional army of Hes­sians and Bri­tish sol­diers march­ing on their way to Philadel­phia,” Con­ley said.

Satur­day’s event also fea­tured an ap­pear­ance by Ray Fir­mani, a 97-year-old World War II vet­eran from Elsmere. Wilm­ing­ton au­thor Mitchell Topal re­cently pub­lished a book, “Against All Odds: The Ray Fir­mani Story,” about Fir­mani’s ex­pe­ri­ence in the war and the 25 B-17 bomb­ing mis­sions he flew.

Fir­mani spoke about the Bat­tle of Cooch’s Bridge and signed copies of the book.

NE­WARK POST PHOTO BY JOSH SHAN­NON

Gen. Terry Wi­ley pre­pares to lay a wreath dur­ing the Wreaths Across Amer­ica cer­e­mony at the Pen­cader Her­itage Mu­seum on Satur­day.

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