12/17/17 — Wreaths for the fallen

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Wreaths for the fallen

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on December 17, 2017 3:05 AM

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Camdyn Griffith, 3, lays a wreath on her grandfather's grave Saturday during the annual Wreaths Across America event at Evergreen Cemetery. Camdyn was born only a few months after her grandfather, Kevin Jody Scarborough, died of a heart attack, but she still knows about his service in the Army. Also pictured are her parents, Staci and Tyler.

The crowd at Evergreen Cemetery began gathering nearly an hour before the noontime ceremony began to honor fallen veterans on Saturday.

Tawyna Tucker, organizer, praised the community for its response to the local version of the national event, Wreaths Across America.

"We have support from Seymour (Johnson Air Force Base), usually 75 to 100 volunteers and then we have a huge show of support from the local motorcycle clubs," she said. "They're the backbone of the veteran support."

It is also a family affair, she said, flanked by her husband, J.D. Tucker, who retired at SJAFB, and younger daughter, Olivia. Her other daughter, Emily, Miss Goldsboro 2014, who first introduced the event, sang the national anthem during the ceremony.

"I brought it to Goldsboro because we have SJAFB here and have so many veterans," Emily said. "Five years ago we brought it here, and with my mom's help we have been keeping it going.

"It's something that Goldsboro really needs because veterans deserve to be honored during the holidays and every single day. And it brings the community together, and I love to see that."

Bill Graham, Goldsboro Purple Heart Foundation chairman, served as emcee.

He said the event provides an opportunity to honor those who served their country -- veterans as well as some who gave their lives, others who continue to serve and those prisoners of war or missing in action.

"No matter what their story is, they deserve to be honored," he said, noting that the occasion is also an important way to teach the next generation about the value of freedom.

Col. Stoney Sloan, retired Air Force, referenced song lyrics used to teach young people about patriotism, "I'm an American. Yes I am."

He said that those were appropriate words to apply in this instance.

"I have a suggestion -- when you go to their graves today to decorate them with those beautiful Christmas wreaths, take a minute, read the inscription on the stone, maybe say a short prayer of thanks for their service and then because they can no longer speak, speak for them," he said. "And in a voice as loud as you feel comfortable, say on their behalf, 'I am an American. Yes I am.'"

Craig Hall was among the crowd, with his wife, Cyndi, and daughter, Jaelea, 7. Hall, active duty military, is also a motorcyclist. While not affiliated with any of the local clubs, he said it was through one, the Fallen Saints Motorcycle Club, that he learned about Wreaths Across America and knew it was something he could support.

"It's important to remember the veterans, especially this time of year," he said. "They have sacrificed a lot for guys like me who come after them."

Ten-year-old Brandon Talton was there to put a wreath on the graves of his grandfather and great-grandfather. He was accompanied by his stepbrother, Adrian Grice, 12, and grandmother, Frankie Talton.

"I was out here last year," Frankie said. "I had never been out here (for this event). I think this is just fabulous."

"This is huge," agreed Tammy Talton, Brandon's mother, also attending for the first time in honor of her grandfather, Chester Howell. "He was a World War II veteran in the Army.

"I loved my granddad. He was the apple of my eye."

Perhaps the most meaningful part of the ceremony took place away from the tent and podium, in the form of families being given the opportunity to place their own wreaths on graves in the cemetery.

Some had specific targets of lost loved ones, others sought out blue flags marking graves of veterans.

For Staci Griffith, the annual event has become a family tradition -- she, along with her mother and brother commemorate the life of her dad, Kevin Jody Scarborough, a 22-year Army veteran.

He did not die in combat, though. He passed away in his sleep in 2013, of an apparent heart attack at age 58.

"We come out every year," she said. "This is a huge thing for us. My family, coming from a military family it's kind of our way of paying our respects to other members who have passed away and learning more about who they are, what they did.

"I want my kids to grow up knowing the same thing, where our country came from, essentially."

No matter how much time has passed, the occasion is still an emotional one, she said.

"He died when I was six months pregnant, so my daughter never got to meet him," she said. "This is my way of letting her bond with him and learning who he was."

A second, smaller ceremony was also held Saturday at the Eastern Carolina State Veterans Cemetery in the Elroy community.

Donations are accepted year-round, Tucker said, to honor veterans at other area cemeteries.

For more information, visit the Wreaths Across America Facebook page or goldsborowreaths.com.