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Wreath ceremony honors veterans

December 18, 2016 GMT

BULLHEAD CITY — The sound of flags snapping in the wind accompanied the playing of taps in a solemn ceremony Saturday to honor and remember military service members.

The annual wreath ceremony at Arizona Veterans Memorial Park, hosted by Veterans United Inc., honors past and present service members; this year more than 340 wreaths with flags were placed at the Medal of Honor Eternal Flame.

“We have 15 of the wreaths here today,” said Korean War veteran Paul Walsh, Colorado River Chapter 1st Marine Division Association member. “It’s very important to honor those who gave their life for our country.”

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The Veterans United Inc. Christmas Wreath program places a wreath with an American flag for each of the 163 Arizona service members lost since 2002 in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The nonprofit also makes available for public purchase wreaths to honor any veteran for placement in the display. Each sponsored wreath bears the name of a service member and their sponsor.

In addition, a large wreath is placed in front of the main memorial on the south entrance of the peninsula. The wreaths will remain on display through Jan. 14.

“It’s our 10th annual ceremony to honor military members and veterans,” said Cyndie McClure, Veterans United Inc. president. “We hope we’re honoring them the way they’d like to be honored.”

More than 100 people attended the ceremony, which included a special presentation by U.S. Air Force Chaplain Paul Pitts, who spoke of the need to honor the sacrifices made by service men and women.

“We’re not here just to decorate,” he said. “We’re here to remember not just their deaths but also their lives.”

The chaplain also urged attendees to support veterans through the Jerry Ambrose Veterans Council’s annual Stand Down and through donations to Arizona Veterans Memorial Park through Veterans United Inc.

The JAVC Stand Down, held in March in Community Park, is the area’s largest annual event to bring together service providers and homeless and at-risk-of-homelessness veterans in need.

The ceremony also included an opening prayer by Pastor Eugene Stoufer, Mohave Valley United Methodist Church, presentation of colors by Mohave High School Jr. ROTC, and a three-volley salute by American Legion Post 87 Color Guard, including bugle taps played by Richard Roel, past commander. Karen Lopez sang the national anthem.

In honor of the ceremony, Bullhead City Fire Department flew a large American flag from Ladder 711.

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“We’re here to support the veterans of this community,” said Bob Farmer, Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association detachment commander. “If it weren’t for our veterans, we wouldn’t have the freedoms we know today. Look around today, there are WWII veterans, Korean War veterans, Gulf War veterans here; it’s nice to see the community here to honor them.”

Veterans United, Inc., a locally formed volunteer-run nonprofit organization, focuses on a mission of honoring veterans in the form of memorials at Arizona Veterans Memorial Park.

Proceeds from wreath sponsorships pay for the wreaths and the display, with remaining funds going toward maintenance and improvement of the park, McClure said.