The city of Roswell’s Finance Committee approved waiving fees for the ‘Wreaths Across America’ event to honor veterans.
Wreaths Across America is a national event and will hosted locally by the Southeast New Mexico Patriot Guard Riders (PRG) on Saturday.
According to a press release, remembrance wreaths, usually made of live balsam and red bows, are placed to decorate the headstones of fallen veterans. The Wreaths Across America website (wreathsacrossamerica.org) states that these wreaths adorn headstones in about 1,400 locations nationwide and cemeteries overseas where American veterans were laid to rest.
For the Roswell event, MaryAnn Murphy, assistant state captain of the Southeast New Mexico PGR, said the event will begin at Pioneer Plaza at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday. A procession from Pioneer Plaza to the General Douglas McBride Veteran’s Cemetery, within the city’s South Park Cemetery at 3101 S. Main St., will begin at 9:15 a.m. At 10 a.m., the ceremony will begin at the cemetery.
Murphy said veterans and their families are usually the ones who come out and pay tribute to the veterans, but she emphasized everyone is welcome at the event.
“The whole focus is to help people remember why we are free, to honor those who have given their life — either the ultimate sacrifice or just altered their life — by serving and to teach our children why we are the greatest country in the world,” Murphy said.
At the Finance Committee last Tuesday afternoon, Murphy and her “right-hand man” Jack Fox were present to answer questions about the event. Fox said the procession, made up of motorcycles and vehicles, is usually a block long. Though the event has done without escort in the past, Murphy said the escort serves as a safety precaution. Fox said other drivers tend to pull over when they see flags during the procession. Fox added that whether the group rides their motorcycles or not will depend on the weather.
Juanita Jennings, the city’s public affairs director, introduced the item to the council and explained the local chapter of the PRG was requesting a waiver of all city fees for the event. Jennings said in past events, motorcyclists had gathered in Pioneer Plaza with a Roswell Police Department (RPD) escort, and sometimes a Roswell Fire Department truck, for the procession. The fee waiver totaled $1,468.08, including the RPD escort, stage, PA (public address) system and 50 chairs with set-up and tear-down from city employees.
City Manager Joe Neeb said he could recommend support for the fee waiver and added that the committee’s vote would determine support. Neeb explained it was short notice to be approved at the full city council meeting this Thursday with the event scheduled two days after. After the presentation and discussion, City Councilor Steve Henderson made a motion to approve the full amount of the waiver and Councilor Jacob Roebuck seconded. With votes also from Councilor Judy Stubbs and Councilor Caleb Grant, the motion passed unanimously.
Originally, Henderson asked if the event could happen without the fire truck escort, which was priced at $500. Murphy answered yes, but said she “liked all the bells and whistles” for the event. Prior to the final vote, Henderson made a motion to approve the waiver without the fire truck for the event, but there was no second. Roebuck complimented Henderson for his diligence in exploring options to save money for the city.
Remembering the past
Murphy said the event is “strictly volunteer” and has been a part of Roswell since for more than 10 years. On a national level, Murphy said Morrill Worcester, owner of Worcester Wreath Company, visited Arlington National Cemetery as a child and his company donated surplus wreaths to that same cemetery in 1992.
Murphy said the PGR has received seven wreaths to honor the U.S. military branches and POW/MIA veterans (the prisoners of war and those missing in action). Murphy said the event used to take place on the Chaves County Courthouse lawn and now the General Douglas McBride Veteran’s Cemetery, established in 2011, “seems so much more appropriate.” Murphy said she met with Ruben Esquivel, the South Park Cemetery superintendent, and he was more than willing to set up and tear down at the cemetery.
“It is our honor to pay tribute to veterans in this small way — especially during the holiday season,” Murphy wrote in an emailed statement. “We appreciate the cooperation and support of other veterans’ organizations — as well as individual veterans and first responders. This is in no way a one-person, one-group effort.”
City/RISD reporter Alison Penn can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at email@example.com.