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Fort Smith National Cemetry hosts annual 'Christmas Honors' ceremony

Since 2009, Fort Smith residents have been invited to honor veterans at the annual "Christmas honors" event and this year was no different.

FORT SMITH, Ark. — This holiday season, families, friends, and volunteers transformed the Fort Smith national cemetery by placing 17,000 wreaths across 32 acres on headstones to honor veterans.

"We just realized it's just surely never going to be an adequate way to adequately thank the veterans for all that they did but we got a group together that said but we got to keep trying," said Philip Merry, founder & chair of Christmas Honors.

Hundreds of people gathered to pay a tribute to those in the community who made the ultimate sacrifice and to support family members who lost a loved one who served.

"It's very important to give it up to them. There's Veterans Day in November and we want to do it at Christmas time again because we want to honor the families who shared them. Lots of those husbands and spouses didn't get to come back home," Merry said.

Philip Merry spoke to several veterans at the ceremony and each year he learns something different.

"What I’ve learned is their greatest fear is... it was never of dying, it was of being forgotten. It's nice to know in our town, in Northwest Arkansas and the River Valley they'll never be forgotten. I love living in a place where we'll never forget them,” explained Merry.

This year's guest speaker was the chancellor of the University of Arkansas Fort Smith

"This gave me an opportunity to give back just like my dad did when he was alive and I think he'd be really proud of the fact that all of us are here to never forget the service of the people who had died for our country or who have served very admirably," said Dr. Riley.

During the ceremony, speakers explained the meaning of the "wreath". The shape is significant, as a representation of divine perfection. It symbolizes eternity because the shape has no end.

"So, I think today is another good reminder but also a joyful one, not necessarily a day for tears and sorrow but a day to think you know as we go into the Christmas season to have joy and remember that the people who have died are still part of us every day," Dr. Riley said. 

If you missed this year’s Christmas honors and would still like to get involved, volunteers are needed on Thursday, January 5th to help pick up and clean all 17,000 of the wreaths. Those volunteers will also meet at the Fort Smith Convention Center C, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Credit: KFSM


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