Hockey team places wreaths on vet­eran graves

The Kent Island Bay Times - - News - By DOUG BISHOP [email protected]­times.com

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.

PHO­TOS BY DOUG BISHOP

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.

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