A brief ceremony was conducted beforehand at the top of the cemetery hill at 500 Washington Ave. in downtown Marietta. Representatives of each military branch individually placed a wreath at the headstone of a fallen soldier and in honor of those who remain Prisoners of War/Missing in Action. "Taps" was performed after each wreath was placed during the solemn ceremony.
It was the fifth year Wreaths Across America - a nationwide program that promoted the placing of hundreds of thousands of wreaths Saturday at graves in national and state U.S. Veterans Affairs Department cemeteries - was conducted at Marietta National Cemetery. The Civil Air Patrol organized the ceremony with assistance from veteran organizations and citizens.
"The wreaths before you represent our commitment as a united America to remember the fallen, to honor those who have served and are serving in our Armed Forces of our great nation, and to honor their families who continue to endure sacrifices everyday on our behalf," said Lt. Col. Deb Shmid of the Civil Air Patrol.
Most of the funds raised for the wreaths came from the Gwinnett County Civil Air Patrol. More than 300 people throughout metro Atlanta attended the public event.
One of them was Lee Cordner of Lilburn, a Vietnam veteran who lost his 26-year-old son, Army Cpl. William A. Long, on June, 18, 2005, during the Iraq War. Long and another solider were conducting a mounted patrol in Buritz, when they were attacked by enemy forces using rocket-propelled grenades. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery, where Wreaths Across America was started in 1992.
"I was thinking of going to Arlington because my son is buried up there; (but it's) just a little too expensive right at this time," said Cordner, who laid six wreaths at different headstones.
"It's good to show respect for those who died for our country. And just going out and putting a wreath down, acknowledging that person in all of these graves and spending a minute with a few of them, is a good thing."
Kale Robinson, 19, of Alpharetta, said he wanted to help place wreaths in honor of people like his father, retired Air Force veteran Shawn Robinson.
"You can't help but to respect them," he said.
All 131 national cemeteries receive at least seven wreaths to place at headstones - one for each service branch, one for the Merchant Marine and one for Prisoners of War and those Missing in Action, according to the Veterans Affairs Department.
The Marietta National Cemetery was established in 1866 when Henry Cole, a Marietta merchant and Union loyalist, donated 23.3-acres of land in order to provide a suitable resting place for those who died in the Civil War. Soldiers from every war are among the more than 18,800 people buried in the cemetery, said local historian Brad Quinlin.
"In this cemetery, we can tell the entire history of America," said Quinlin. "We have two Revolutionary War soldiers that are buried here and two (Iraq War) soldiers - one killed in Iraq and the other killed in a car accident after he got back."
Larry T. Guzy of Marietta, who participated in the ceremony as a Sons of the American Revolution member, said the wreath ceremony is symbolic of the way Americans honor those who have served their country.
"We Americans who are here today are the beneficiaries of that legacy, regardless of our heritage and ethnic origins," he said.