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Wreath-laying ceremony in Brea is part of a growing effort to remember veterans during the holidays

U.S. military personnel help place wreaths atop tombstones at Memory Gardens Cemetery in Brea.
U.S. military personnel help place wreaths atop tombstones during National Wreaths Across America Day on Dec. 17 at Memory Gardens Cemetery in Brea.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)
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Maj. Jeffrey T. Goeggel of Civil Air Patrol, U.S. Air Force Auxiliary always remembers our military veterans, but during the holiday season he pays special respect.

“It is important to let children know these were men and women that served the country and gave us rights to our freedoms that we now enjoy,” he said.

Service members sacrifice their time and safety every day of the year, Goeggel said, and to honor them, he and other members of Fullerton Composite Squadron 56 participated in 12th annual National Wreaths Across America Day held at Memory Garden Memorial Park in Brea on Dec. 17.

“This is probably our fifth year participating in the program,” Goeggel said.

Wreaths Across America is a nonprofit founded to expand the annual wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery started in 1992 by Maine businessman Morrill Worcester.

“He made wreaths out of Christmas trees that he had left over,” said Goeggel.

Maj. Jeff Goeggel, center, salutes during the Pledge of Allegiance on National Wreaths Across America Day.
Maj. Jeff Goeggel, center, salutes as the Pledge of Allegiance is recited during National Wreaths Across America Day on the morning of Dec. 17 at Memory Gardens Cemetery in Brea.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

The mission of Wreaths Across America is to remember the fallen, honor those who serve and teach children the value of freedom. This year, nearly 3,000 participating locations placed wreaths on the graves of veterans in conjunction with the Arlington ceremony.

“We are forever grateful for the thousands of supporters who dedicate their time and efforts to fulfilling our mission on a local level,” Wreaths Across America executive director Karen Worcester said in a statement.

Fullerton Composite Squadron 56 joined other local wreath sponsors including Vietnam Veterans of America & Auxiliary Chapter 1024, Cub Scout Pack #737, Boy Scout Troop #93 and the Yorba Linda Women’s Club for the ceremony that began at 9 a.m. and included wreath-laying ceremonies, memorial services and a bugler playing “Taps,” the United States military call at funerals.

Volunteers place wreaths atop tombstones during National Wreaths Across America Day.
Volunteers place wreaths atop tombstones during National Wreaths Across America Day.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Civil Air Patrol is the official auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force and hosts a cadet program for youth ages 12 to 18, some of whom participated in the ceremony in Brea. Goeggel became involved in the nonprofit organization in 2001, right after 9/11.

“I have been taking part in the program ever since,” he said. “I started out as a second lieutenant then a first lieutenant then up to captain. I was captain for about 3½ years before becoming a major.”

Next year, Goeggel hopes to be promoted to lieutenant colonel.

California Society of the SAR color guard marches at National Wreaths Across America Day in Brea.
California Society of the SAR color guard members march during National Wreaths Across America Day at Memory Gardens Cemetery in Brea.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Wreaths Across America honors veterans from the Revolutionary War to present-day conflicts and utilizes sponsors to raise funds for the wreaths. One individual wreath sponsorship is priced at $15, and five wreaths are $75. The organization depends on volunteers, and this year, more than 2 million volunteers participated nationwide in laying wreaths on veterans’ graves.

Memory Garden hosts 7,000 veteran gravesites and raised funds for 851 wreaths. Westminster’s Memorial Park and Mortuary, which hosts 5,990 veterans’ graves, also participated in the event, its second year of doing so.

Wreaths Across America hopes the organization continues to expand with more volunteers and sponsors each year.

Members of the Civil Air Patrol, U.S. Air Force Auxiliary at Memory Gardens Cemetery in Brea.
From left, senior member Daniel Noriega, Capt. Ronald Martin, Maj. Doug Miller, Maj. Jeff Goeggel, 2nd Lt. Tara Grubb and Capt. Bill Swigart stand together after a National Wreaths Across America Day ceremony on Saturday morning at Memory Gardens Cemetery in Brea.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

“These individuals and their communities know the value of remembering the fallen, honoring those who currently serve and teaching the next generation about the sacrifices made for our freedom every day,” said Worcester. “Without their continued support, Wreaths Across America would not exist.”

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