Remembrance important in Christmas season

As the uniformed men stood at attention and the bugler slowly played through “Taps,” I had trouble keeping the tears in my eyes from running down my face. I was standing in a press of people at the annual Wreaths Across America ceremony held at the Alabama National Cemetery in Montevallo.

I personally have very little connection with the military. I have never lost anyone I love, or even am acquainted with, to war in a country far away. But as the sniffling and tears began to fall over the crowd on that crisp, sunny Saturday morning, I realized how deeply those sacrifices cost. Bob Barefield, the master of ceremonies, spoke of how freedom is not free. We’ve all heard that phrase so often that it’s becoming a cliché in our society. However, the cost of freedom is the loss to these families. The crowd represented those whose lives are impacted forever by the sacrifice of their loved ones. Rachel Clinkscale is the treasurer of the Blue Star Salute Foundation, the main sponsor of the remembrance ceremony. She is also a member of the Gold Star Wives of America, as she lost her husband in the Vietnam War.

When I asked her of the importance of remembering fallen soldiers, she looked at me and said of her husband and his comrades, “I do this because they didn’t get all this.”

The commitment of these people astounds me. Am I committed to anything as strongly as these people? They spend great amounts of time and effort to not only remember those they have lost, but also honor those that others have lost. The sacrifice of those loved ones creates a new family in the midst of sorrow. As Barefield concluded the Wreaths Across America ceremony, he asked family members of the soldiers buried in the cemetery to rise, collect a wreath and place the evergreen wreath at the foot of the gravestone. After a moment, the remaining crowd came behind the family members to honor the rest of the fallen. As you continue to celebrate this Christmas season, I encourage you to take a few moments to drive through the Alabama National Cemetery on Alabama 119 and see the wreaths. It’s a time of family, a time of celebration, but also a time of remembrance.

Christine Boatwright is a staff writer for the Shelby County Reporter. She can be reached at 669-3131 ext. 316 or by email at christine.boatwright @shelbycountyreporter.com.