The recent Wreaths Across America ceremony, held at Hilldale Cemetery in Haverhill, is being called a success by the volunteers.
Tammy Dobrosielski, one of the lead organizers, said the goal of 474 sponsored wreaths was surpassed, and an estimated 130 volunteers helped lay the wreaths on the graves of veterans. The Dec. 17 ceremony was dedicated in memory of World War II Veteran Anthony DeFusco, who passed away this past Nov. 30, at the age of 101. He received a Purple Heart for wounds he suffered on Iwo Jima.
The main speaker at this year’s event was Haverhill Veteran Services Officer Jeffrey Hollett, who was a recent guest on WHAV’s morning program, where he passed along an observance that a veteran can die three deaths. The first is when they take their last breath, whether surrounded by family or their brothers and sisters in arms, depending on the situation. The second death is considered the honorable death.
“The honorable death is that moment in time when their U.S. Army flag is lifted and hoisted above their coffin and it’s believed traditionally that at that moment when that flag is first lifted that the warrior spirit passes into that coffin flag, and that’s considered the second honorable death. But, the third death is considered the most tragic death, and that death is when that veterans name is no longer spoken, that their family has passed away, their stones are weathered, nobody knows their name, nobody speaks their name or knows their story. That is what we can do as Americans, we can prevent that third tragic death,” he explained.
At this year’s Wreaths Across America, the name of each veteran was spoken as the wreath was placed on the grave.
With this year’s wreath sponsorship goal being surpassed, Dobrosielski said, 113 wreaths are already being credited for the 2023 ceremony.
From now through Tuesday, Jan. 17. Wreaths Across America will match all donations made online at HilldaleWreaths.com. She said research is continuing to uncover graves of other veterans at Hilldale Cemetery, a private cemetery, that have been mislabeled or lack other identification.