NEW BERN, NC (WNCT) – Thousands of wreaths were laid on the headstones of veterans at New Bern National Cemetery on Saturday as part of Wreaths Across America.
Hundreds of veterans, volunteers, friends and families gathered to express their love and respect for those who served.
“We don’t want them to be forgotten. And they say that you die twice. You die when you physically die, and you die when people forget you,” said Kris Borg with the Veteran Enforcers Motorcycle Association.
“So, we come here, and we say everybody’s name, we pay respects, we’ll put a wreath on their headstone, say their name, and give them a salute, and it’s an honor to be here for it.”
The family of those buried said they are grateful and honored by the support New Bern shows to its veterans.
“We’re here to honor all of the people in the cemetery, but also for our son Zack Stellfox. He was killed in a tragic accident last June and he loved New Bern, he served in the Marine Corps, he was stationed at Cherry Point,” said Debbie Stellfox, a mother of a veteran.
“To know that all these people care so much about everybody that’s here. Humbling. Sad because we’re here because of him being here, but we’re very proud.”
More than 5,000 wreaths were laid at the event. Those with Wreaths Across America said each year the event has grown.
“Over the years, we’ve just grown this program to what it is now to where we can bring thousands of wreathes out here and try to pay respect to everyone,” said Wreaths Across America Location Coordinator Kevin Yates.
This was the 12th annual wreath ceremony at New Bern National Cemetery. But less than a mile away, the Greenwood Cemetery had its first wreath laying ceremony ever, honoring the 63 veterans recently identified on the grounds.
“It’s centered around veteran African Americans who had not had any recognition in terms of the community,” said Rev. Carol Becton of Clinton Chapel AME Zion Church.
“They had been discovered or brought to light by the American Legion Post 539. They had a service community project during which they came into Greenwood Cemetery, and they cleaned all the headstones of veterans dating back to the Civil War.”
Becton said this marked a new beginning for Greenwood Cemetery.
“Firsts are usually important and significant superlatives because this marks something new. A new beginning hopefully that the veterans at Greenwood Cemetery, and we also discovered that there are 200 at Evergreen Cemetery. That this is the first time and hopefully,” Becton said. “It will not be the last time.”