Wreaths Across America to honor veterans at stops across Northwest Florida

Northwest Florida Daily News

FORT WALTON BEACH — A mobile occasion to salute the men and women who once lived lives of sacrifice in order to protect their nation's assets and citizens is on its way to Northwest Florida. 

The 48-foot Mobile Education Exhibit by Wreaths Across America will makes stops in Destin and Pensacola for tours and lay wreaths at veterans gravesites at cemeteries in Fort Walton Beach, Santa Rosa Beach, and Destin. 

Airman 1st Class Paige Weller, 96th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, kneels at the foot of a veteran's grave during the first local Wreaths Across America ceremony Dec. 19 in Fort Walton Beach, Fla. The wreath-laying event is a tribute to our veterans and symbol of a grateful nation. Each time a wreath was laid, the veterans name was said aloud. More than 1,700 veterans are buried at Beal Memorial Cemetery.

The mobile exhibit features a 24-person screening room that presents video highlights of the WAA mission, three interactive computers, trucking supporters, and general wreath sponsorship questions, according to the nonprofit's website. An education wall is on the display at the front of the unit, as well. 

“The goal of the Wreaths Across America Mobile Education Exhibit is to bring community together and teach patriotism while remembering the service and sacrifice of our nation’s heroes,” said Executive Director of Wreaths Across America Karen Worcester. “However, over the last year, in light of the current health crisis, we feel this exhibit has taken on even more meaning by providing the opportunity for people to safely participate in something that is both educational and inspiring, while supporting and giving back to the communities it visits.”

Members of the Fort Walton Beach High School JROTC, stand at attention while securing flags representing each branch of the Armed Forces, during a Wreaths Across America ceremony on Saturday at Beal Memorial Cemetery.

All veterans, active duty military, their families, and the general public are not only welcomed, but encouraged to visit the on-site unit. WAA representatives and volunteers will be on hand to guide the tour, answer questions, and provide more insight into WAA nonprofit work. 

WAA's mobile education unit aims to engage the local communities, and encourage veterans to share their stories at the exhibit. According to a news release, the exhibit also serves as an "official 'welcome home' station for our nation's Vietnam veterans."

Wreaths Across America will be at area cemeteries to remember and honor veterans through the laying of Remembrance wreaths on the graves of our country's fallen heroes and the act of saying the name of each and every veteran aloud.

Wreaths Across America Northwest Florida stops

Pensacola, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 2: The Kiwanis Club of Big Lagoon hosts the WAA mobile education unit at 13430 Gulf Beach Highway. 

Destin, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 3: The West Florida Chapter NSDAR hosts the WAA mobile education unit at Fudpuckers Restaurant, 20001 Emerald Coast Parkway.

Fort Walton Beach, 9 a.m. Dec. 18: WAA will lay wreaths on veteran gravesites at Beal Cemetery, 316 Beal Parkway NW. 

Santa Rosa Beach, 11 a.m. Dec. 18:  WAA will lay wreaths on veteran gravesites at Gulf Cemetery, South County Road Highway 393.

Destin, 1 p.m. Dec. 18: WAA will lay wreaths on veteran gravesites at Destin Memorial Cemetery, 111 Stalhman Ave.