Wreaths Across America Presents Kid's Corner
The three objectives of the Wreaths Across America mission are to remember our fallen heroes, honor those who currently serve, and teach younger generations the value of freedom. It’s that last objective that most would agree is vital. President Ronald Reagan may have said it best when he said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”
More and more families participate with Wreaths Across America in wreath-laying ceremonies across the country, and about a third of the organizations’ volunteers are young people. In a new monthly feature called Kid’s Corner, Wreaths Across America is recognizing youth volunteers who step up to do their part making sure no hometown hero is forgotten. You can read about their efforts in our monthly newsletter, hear more of their actual interview on Wreaths Radio on Friday mornings, and check out some of their photos on our Facebook pages.
10-year-old Gwen Giles is a grade-school student at Hodgdon elementary in northern Maine. Last year, she encouraged her principal to invite American Gold Star Mother, Lorna Harris, to speak at her school. Lorna’s son, SPC Dustin J. Harris, was killed in action in Iraq in 2006. The families are close, and Gwen often speaks of “Uncle Dustin.” Together, they made a veteran’s wreath explaining the symbolism associated with the balsam bouquets, its circular shape, and a single red bow. “My Mom was a big help in this,” Gwen shared. “Mr. Oliver reached out to talk to Mom about it, and then Mom reached out to Lorna.” Gwen continued, “Lorna came in and did a really wonderful presentation. Usually when we do a school presentation, everybody is a lot more talkative, but everybody that was there were really respectful. I think it helped a lot of people kind of get the meaning of what Veterans Day is all about, and what Wreaths Across America does, and why it’s important to keep people remembered.”
Gwen had the opportunity to travel to Virginia and ride into Arlington National Cemetery with Gold Star parents, Lorna and Scott Harris. “It was a little overwhelming, but it was fun.” Gwen was able to honor her piano teacher’s brother and others. “Just walking through the cemetery, I said a lot of names because I didn’t want them to be forgotten.” When Gwen arrived home, she shared her experiences with her classmates and teachers.
Last year, Gwen was able to raise enough money in one week to sponsor 17 veterans’ wreaths for National Wreaths Across America Day. This year, she and her mother have plans for different fundraisers, and according to Gwen there’s someone else who wants to get involved. “Natalie wants to help. Knowing that I’m supposed to remember, honor, and teach, I thought what better way to teach then to get my little sister Natalie involved, and she’s 8.”
Gwen’s mother Kristin, says Gwen has struggled in the past with some social anxieties, but her volunteer work and involvement with Wreaths Across America events have allowed her to blossom and “come out of her shell.”
Thanks, Gwen, for helping us remember, honor, and teach. You can hear more from our Kid’s Korner interviews in our Kid’s Korner special reports on Fun Fridays during the Wreaths Across America Radio Morning Show.