Local Civil Air Patrol members honor the fallen

All across America Saturday, people are placing wreaths on the grave sites of those who have served in the military. Some members of the U.S. Air Force’s local Civil Air Patrol division took time to remember and reflect on those who have served before them.

At a formal remembrance ceremony inside Woodlawn Cemetery’s mausoleum, members of the La Crosse Composite Squadron presented wreaths for those who have served or are currently serving in each branch of the military. They also displayed a wreath for prisoners of war and military members missing in action.

Along with funding from outside organizations, the volunteer members collected donations and found sponsors for the wreaths to be placed outside at each veteran’s headstone.

“Then we got them all together. We had to pick out the graves and mark them all so that way we knew where they were so we don’t miss any,” said 2nd Lt.Seth Tiedeman.

The non-profit Wreaths Across America, which organized the nationwide event, has a motto to remember, honor and teach. That’s why the say the cadets say, ‘we will not forget you,’ and call out each person’s name.

The cadets, who range from 12 to 18 years old, may not necessarily go on to join the armed forces. However, they participate in trainings and assist with search and rescue missions.

“Whether they go into the military or not, it’s just a nice way way to build character,” said Maj. John Patterson, a senior member of the Civil Air Patrol.

But if they do, then the senior members hope that today they make a connection with those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

“We certainly want to teach our youth about the freedoms that they have that those freedoms come at a cost. And they have a duty and an honor to respect the folks that came before them.” said Maj. Todd Mandell, commander of the squadron.

Seth Tiedeman, 16, is one of the cadets planning on going into the air force. He says it’s an honor to be helping place over 150 wreaths at the cemetery today.

“I don’t want to take veterans or my freedom for granted. So I feel like I’m paying [it] back to them by laying wreaths,” Tiedeman said.

According to Wreaths Across America, there were over 1,200 participating locations in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and national cemeteries on foreign soil.