Saturday’s laying of wreaths on veterans’ graves in Fort Mill was a way for high school student Michael Cahill to show respect for those who have served – something he soon hopes to do with the U.S. Marine Corps.
Cahill, a cadet in Fort Mill High School’s Marine Corps Junior ROTC program, joined his classmates and other students from Nation Ford High School as the Fort Mill community participated in the Wreaths Across America program for the fourth consecutive year.
The 22-year-old program honors the nation’s deceased veterans by placing holiday wreaths on their graves.
Dozens of people came to Unity Presbyterian Church’s cemetery to honor the nearly 800 service veterans buried there. More than 25 civic groups and businesses contributed to the effort, organizers said. The local Civil Air Patrol led the fundraising and promotion efforts.
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Cahill said the event is important because it helps the community remember the sacrifices made by servicemen and women.
He’s eager to serve, too. Cahill said he wants to attend the University of South Carolina and enroll in the Marine Corps Platoon Leaders course. Cahill hopes to be a Marine Corps officer and aviator.
Involving young people such as Cahill is a great way for a community to continue paying tribute to those who have served in the military, said Neely Cousar, 21, and a a member of the National Guard’s 1222nd Engineer Company located in Fort Mill.
On Saturday National Guard members unloaded a truck full of boxes of wreaths. High school students unpacked the wreaths and passed them to waiting families.
Mike Cloer and his son, Michael Cloer, a high school freshman, walked around the cemetery to find veterans’ graves. The Cloers found Walter Mitchum Clawson, a World War I Army veteran who died in 1957 at age 63.
Nearby, Joe Griffin, 12, and Sam Griffin, 13, walked with their mom, Lisa. The Tega Cay family is involved with the Children of the American Revolution and Daughters of the American Revolution.
“We’ve just always had a history of honoring our veterans,” Lisa Griffin said.
Together, they honored U.S. Army Pvt. Benjamin Kell Warren, a World War II veteran, and Sgt. John Wiley Warren, an Army veteran who died last year at age 64.
Cousar said the support shown Saturday is an example of a community that respects its service members. When he’s in uniform locally, he often receives kind words and hand shakes from strangers who appreciate his service.