Honoring their sacrifices: Veterans honored with Wreaths Across America ceremony in Davis

Sierra Rains
Oklahoma National Guard Major Rufus Reed places a wreath at the grave of a veteran Saturday morning. Reed joined several others in honoring veterans during the Wreaths Across America ceremony in Davis.

More than 500 veterans are buried at the Green Hill and Oak Ridge Cemeteries in Davis, and on Saturday, friends, family and their fellow service members kneeled before their graves to place wreaths in their honor. 

Individuals at more than 2,100 locations across the nation carried out the same wreath-laying ceremony for what has become known as Wreaths Across America Day. The ceremony first took place at the Arlington National Cemetery in 1992, and continues to grow as more people seek to contribute. 

Davis resident Sue Ensley has been coordinating the local ceremony for the past three years. Her sons are Air Force veterans, with her youngest buried at the Arlington National Cemetery. Ensley said the wreaths brought her happiness and she wanted to share the tradition with families in the local community. 

“I just think it makes the people who have veterans here happy, it makes them feel like their loved one is remembered,” Ensley said. “People don’t realize how important it is that we do this. We don’t have the draft so we have volunteers — what if no one volunteered anymore?” 

Many attending on Saturday had a personal connection to the mission of the ceremony. Sen. Frank Simpson, R-Springer, who is a retired Navy veteran, said it’s important to think of the families who will have empty seats at the table over the holidays. 

“Many of us here who served in the military probably spent a few Christmas’s away from home and we remember how lonely those Christmas times were,” Simpson said, adding that he feels for the families who have a loved one who never returned home. 

Members of Beyond Brotherhood place seven ceremonial wreaths celebrating veterans in all branches of the military, and those with unmarked graves.

During the ceremony, members of Beyond Brotherhood, a local nonprofit focused on bringing awareness to homelessness and suicide among veterans, placed seven ceremonial wreaths celebrating veterans in all branches of the military, and those with unmarked graves. 

The last wreath was placed in honor of the over 84,000 U.S. service personnel whose last known status was a prisoner of war or missing in action. 

“I think those of us who are here today sort of have an obligation to make sure that those in our families, the younger generations in our families, understand what we’re doing today,” Simpson said. “And understand the significance of remembering those who have served this nation, who have made sacrifices for our nation and have given up so much.”

Following the ceremonial activities, including a rendition of the National Anthem led by the Davis High School band, the participants wandered through the cemeteries and found a wreath to place at all 500 grave sites.

Oklahoma National Guard Major Rufus Reed and Sue Ensley, the coordinator for the Wreaths Across America ceremony in Davis, grab wreaths from one of many boxes placed throughout the cemeteries.

“The wreaths represent our commitment as a united America to remember the fallen and symbolize our honor to those who have served and are currently serving in the armed services of our great nation,” said Oklahoma National Guard Major Rufus Reed. 

The bright red bows on the wreaths quickly began to fill the area, brightening up the landscape on the grey, overcast morning. Ensley said it was challenging putting together the ceremony this year with COVID-19, but it was important that it went on. 

Sponsors including AARP, the city of Davis and Beyond Brotherhood helped immensely in lieu of fundraising events. “If we hadn’t had such good sponsorship, we wouldn’t have made it this year,” Ensley said. 

Before the Davis area began coordinating the local ceremony, the closest location was in Wynnewood. Ensley said she hopes that they can continue to hold the wreath-laying ceremony for many generations to come, and she hopes to see it spread to other areas of Southern Oklahoma as well. 

“It makes me happy, when it’s all over it looks so pretty and nice, and it makes the family members happy,” Ensley said. “It’s just a good thing."