At a time in our nation's history when unity and common cause seem elusive, we hear time and time again from Wreaths Across America volunteers and donors that National Wreaths Across America Day makes them feel united and a part of something much bigger than themselves.

They are bound together across the country and overseas in similar community service projects that show gratitude and respect through the mission to remember hometown fallen heroes, honor those who serve and their families, and teach younger generations the value of freedom. Right now they're working diligently to sponsor fresh balsam fir remembrance wreaths to be placed on headstones this December as names are spoken aloud.

Some of the over 1,200 participating Wreaths Across America locations, like Long Island and Arlington National cemeteries, have hundreds of thousands of veterans interred there while others, like Fort McClellan Military Cemetery in Alabama, have a few hundred. Regardless of size or scope, committed volunteers embrace their work to be sure no one is ever forgotten during the busy holiday season. They're eager to share their knowledge about the lives of the men, women, and children beneath those headstones.

"Among the 445 souls interred at McClellan, 100 of them are infants; four sets of twins," Michael Abrams explains. "The first interment in 1918 was that of a Soldier from New Jersey who died during a flu epidemic before his training for World War I was completed."

Mike is one of the volunteers who work to be sure Wreaths Across America "has a presence" at the Fort McClellan Military Cemetery every December.

"Fort McClellan opened as Camp McClellan in 1917. It was later the home of the Women's Army Corps and then the Army Chemical Corps and Military Police Corps. It was closed 20 years ago as an official military installation and today is home to a large contingent of Alabama National Guard, FEMA's First Responders training facility, and corporate offices."

Some ceremony photos here were provided by The Anniston Star.

Michael has a close association with the cemetery having served at Fort McClellan as a soldier from 1975-1976 and returning there again as an Army, civilian employee.

The Wreaths Across America objective to teach younger generations the value of freedom speaks to Michael the most.

"My grandfather served in World War I, my Dad served in World War, and my brother served in the U.S. Air Force during the Cuban Missile Crisis," Mike shares. "Throughout my career, I've been around Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, Airmen and I've always looked up to them. My Dad was very quiet about his service. My grandfather never talked about his service but I've seen some relics of both of their service, and I think about both of them. Then what comes to mind is the young men and women who are serving today and who have been serving since 9-11 and their stories. Their professionalism and dedication to duty. Our children and grandchildren should never miss an opportunity to learn from and appreciate those who have come before them."

Mike says he wants to be part of an effort that gives the kids today every opportunity to experience for themselves a little bit of the remember, honor, and teach that is part of the Wreaths Across America program.

"As part of our Wreaths Across America project, we work with the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts, the Explorers, Young Marines, and sometimes 4H members," Mike explains. "We try to engage our groups the way that I think the founder of Wreaths Across America intended."

To give you an idea of the significance of the Fort McClellan Military Cemetery's Wreath Ceremony to that specific community, Mike says the event comes under the command of Major General (Ret.) Gerrald G. Watson. General Watson's wife and daughter-in-law are buried at Arlington National Cemetery where he recently visited their headstones with flowers because he knew he would not be there on wreath day. Instead, he will be officiating the wreath day ceremony at Ft McClellan.

Mike says the Wreaths Across America effort brings the Fort McClellan community together with area neighbors. Alabama Army National Guard Master Sgt. Robert A. O'Day coordinates the Guard's support for the ceremony and leads the official Color Guard. Annie Ingram joins in to play "Taps" on her trumpet, county engineer Brian Conary plays "Amazing Grace" on his bagpipes, Jo Rhea Ford, an Air Force veteran, and retired nurse keeps track of wreath sponsorships, and Bruce Large, an Army veteran, and regional salesman, adds to the diversity of volunteers coming together.

As we countdown to wreath day, Saturday, December 16, 2017, we acknowledge and thank our volunteers like Mike who value the mission to remember, honor and teach, so no hometown hero is ever forgotten.

You can hear more from Mike's interview, and interviews with our other volunteers on Wreaths Across America Radio.

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