Hockey team places wreaths on veteran graves
STEVENSVILLE — In a pouring, cold rain Saturday, Dec. 15, members of the Kent Island High School ice hockey team placed wreaths on graves of 166 veterans who are buried in Stevensville Cemetery. The time was 12 noon, as the team and many of their family members and friends participated in a brief but solemn ceremony at the veterans memorial inside the cemetery.
Following words read by hockey team parent John Reardon, who is active duty U.S. Coast Guard, seven KIHS senior class members of the hockey team placed wreaths honoring all branches of the U.S. military at the entrance to the memorial. That was followed by KIHS junior band member Ryan Bachman playing “Taps” on his trumpet. Ryan stood uncovered in the rain as he played perfectly. Asked if someone could hold an umbrella over him as he played, Ryan responded, “That’s okay, I can play without any cover.”
His remark symbolized the attitude of the nearly 100 people who were present, that standing in the rain for a few moments was a small discomfort considering they were there to honor veterans who had served our nation, many of those sacrificing their lives for country.
Reardon read these words before the ceremony to those who were gathered: “At more than 1,000 memorial sites like this one, we are gathered as one nation to ‘Remember, Honor and Teach’ (the words representing the mission of Wreaths Across America) ... We thank those who gave their lives to keep us free and we shall not forget them . ... Today, we show our gratitude and respect across the United States as we remember the fallen, honor those who serve and teach our children the value for freedom.”
He continued, “We are not here today to ‘decorate graves.’ We are here to remember not their deaths, but their lives. There are 166 veterans in this cemetery ... from Army Sgt. George Kolpack, a World War I veteran born in 1893, to Marine Corporal Jacob Matthews, born in 1993 and who died in 2015 . ... To our children, we want you to understand the freedoms we enjoy today have not been free, but come with a cost.”
Reardon asked every volunteer as they placed the wreath on each veteran’s grave to “say that veteran’s name out loud, and take a moment to thank them for their ser vice to our countr y. It’s a small act that goes a long way toward keeping the memor y of our veterans alive.”
In a personal note, following the ceremony, Reardon said, “Last year my boys, Jack and Brendon, saw the Wreaths Across America convoy travel from Maine through Stevensville on its way to Arlington National Cemetery. They decided to get involved and signed up as location coordinators at Stevensville Cemetery. ... With their teammates from the KIHS ice hockey team, they held their first Wreaths Across America event to honor our community veterans in 2017 . ... It has become a tradition of service for the hockey team.”
Reardon also credited the help of Chad Helfenbein of Fellows, Helfenbien and Newman Funeral Home, as well as the generosity of Kent Island American Legion, Post 278, and Past Post Commander Nikki Randolph for providing the wreaths.
Members of the KI Buccaneers U9 baseball team, all the team coaches helped, and Starbucks of Cambridge was on hand to provide free coffee and hot chocolate during the event.
“Our goal is to place a Christmas wreath on every veteran’s grave in the Kent Island area,” Randolph said. After the wreaths were placed at Stevenville Cemetery, Randolph and her friend, Sally Bard, took it upon themselves to personally lay wreaths starting Sunday, Dec. 16, through Friday, Dec. 21, at another 166 veterans’ graves scattered in several very small cemeteries between Grasonville, and Stevensville, bringing the total Wreaths Across America wreaths placed here at 332.
Wreaths were provided for the veteran’s memorial in front of the historic court house in Centreville and at the county’s Fallen Heroes Memorial. They also were placed at the cemetery across the street from Kent Island High School, two graves at the very small cemetery on Batts Neck Road, the cemetery along Dominion Road, a cemeter y located a Sawmill Road, and one wreath at the Slippery Hill memorial in Grasonville, among others.
“If people know of other veterans’ graves that are isolated in the area, please contact me so we can remember them year-round: Christmas, Veterans Day and Memorial Day,” Randolph said.
Messages for Randolph can be left at the KI American Legion, 410-643-2728.
Kent Island High School ice hockey team parent John Reardon speaks to those who came out in the rain Saturday, Dec. 15, to lay wreaths on veteran graves at the Stevensville Cemetery.
Kent Island High School junior Ryan Bachman plays “Taps” during a brief but solemn ceremony held at the Stevensville Cemetery, Saturday, Dec. 15. The ceremony was in recognition of all veterans buried at the cemetery.