On December 15, several members of the Kirby Smith 327 Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy participated in Wreaths Across America in Coffee County. Over sixty wreaths were placed at the Beech Grove Confederate Cemetery. In addition, Coffee County Wreaths Across America placed wreaths at several cemeteries throughout the county.
Wreaths Across America is a nationally recognized charity that honors all fallen veterans by placing a wreath at their headstone. The ceremony began at 11 a.m., at cemeteries across the United States. Sgt. Major Larry Williams spoke on behalf of Wreaths Across America. Father Charley Watkins gave the invocation, and Paul McCullough led the Pledge of Allegiance.
Most of the headstones in the cemetery are marked unknown. Kim King read the names of the known veterans, including a Revolutionary War patriot, and Sheila Williams chimed a bell after each name was read. Mike Anderson called the names of representatives from all branches of the military. The Army wreath was placed by Becky Odell, Kirby Smith Chapter Historian, in honor of her grandfather a WWI veteran and her father a WWII veteran; a Navy wreath placed by Kim King, USN; a Marine wreath placed by Jack Templeton, a USMC; an Air Force wreath placed by Howard Taylor, USAF, USA, USMC; a Coast Guard wreath by Jessica Taylor, USCG; a Merchant Marine wreath by Jenny Vinson, in honor of her father a 1946 Merchant Marine Academy graduate; and a POW/MIA wreath placed by Patricia Anderson, Kirby Smith Chapter Third Vice President, in honor of her father a WWII POW.
Following the formal ceremony, all in attendance were asked to participate by placing a wreath at the headstone of a soldier. After all the wreaths were placed, TAPS was played by James Cortner. Refreshments were furnished by the Kirby Smith and Capt. Calvin C. Brewer Chapters of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.
In 1866, county residents decided to relocate the graves of soldiers scattered around the area to Old Grove, a pioneer graveyard marked by stacks of stones. Beech Grove Cemetery became their final resting place. Beech Grove was at one time a battlefield and the site where a Union brigade secured Hoover’s Gap. The first combat use of repeating rifles was used against the Confederate forces holding Hoover’s Gap. The rifles proved to be very effective and forever changed warfare.
For more information about Wreaths Across America, visit www.wreathsacrossamerica.org.