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South Valley Journal

National Wreaths Across America day

Feb 17, 2020 02:14PM ● By Kirk Bradford

By Kirk Bradford | [email protected]

Each December on Wreaths Across America day, the nonprofit organization focuses on bringing the community together to honor veterans and continue its program titled “Remember, Honor and Teach.” 

Through this program, a massive part of the effort is carried out by coordinating wreath-laying ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, as well as at more than 1,600 locations in the United States, at sea and abroad.

Despite the freezing temperatures and snowy weather, on the morning of Dec. 14 Riverton residents, Riverton City Council members, and others were determined to take part in placing a wreath on the headstones of veteran.  

The event’s wreaths were made possible through residents’ donations. Wreaths were $15 each. The entire balance needed for every veteran to have a wreath on their grave was not reached this year, but plans are to record the names of those who did not receive a wreath and secure them to receive one next year. There are 324 veterans interred in the Riverton City Cemetery.

Before the program started, a few residents talked about being let down since there wasn’t one for everyone. One woman said, “The investment for a wreath compared to the investment and sacrifices by the men buried here astonishingly can’t even be compared.” 

There were, however, many residents like Riverton’s Molly Johnson, who, after setting down her wreath, took time to admire the veterans’ graves without a wreath while she cleaned the overgrown grass and any dirt off of their names and dates. 

“I have three generations in my family that served proudly: my great grandfather, my grandfather and my dad,” Johnson said. “I am so very grateful for these men buried here.” 

Robert Lyle Cowdell passed away on Oct. 10, 2015, in Payson, Utah, and was born Sept. 27, 1928, in Bingham Canyon, Utah. He married Edna Newman Sept. 1, 1950, in the Salt Lake Temple. “Ruk,” as his friends called him. served in the U.S. Navy during WWII. He was a Bingham High alumni, retired from Kennecott Copper and a member of the American Legion Post 140 Riverton. 

The American Legion Post 140 provided the Color Guard presentation followed by the National Anthem sung by Riverton’s First Attendant, Lily Snow. Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs and other Riverton City Council members were on hand for the unveiling of a new monument dedicated to Riverton veterans. The granite marker, located in the center below the flagpole, contains the names of all the veterans interred there. 

Wreaths Across America and its national network of volunteers laid nearly three quarters of a million memorial wreaths at 1,000 locations holding ceremonies at the Pearl Harbor Memorial, Bunker Hill, Valley Forge and the sites of the 9-11 tragedies. Today, all 147 national cemeteries are involved plus around two dozen cemeteries overseas as well as many other selected cemeteries in every state and in Puerto Rico.

The wreath-laying continues to happen each year on either the second or third Saturday of December. WAA's yearly parade from Harrington to Maine to Arlington National Cemetery has become the world’s largest veterans parade, stopping at places such as schools, monuments, veterans homes and small communities to continue to voice their message to remember, honor and teach.

In Riverton, that message was not lost. Riverton’s Diane Dalton was in attendance with three of her children. As she spoke to her son, she coached him as he laid a wreath down on a veterans grave.

“Now say, we want to thank you so much for your service,” she said. ” As the boy repeated back each part to his mother, his siblings watched. 

As she rounded them up to move on to another grave, a few women excitedly approached and asked if Dalton knew the man. She replied she did not. “That’s our uncle,” they said. “Thank you so, so much.”