Wednesday, April 24, 2024

'They are still alive with us'

Staff Writer | December 20, 2020 1:40 AM

RATHDRUM — Six-year-old Roy Gallus carried two wreaths as he ran across the grass at Pinegrove Cemetery Saturday morning.

The Cub Scout with Pack 216 was looking for a gravesite with a small American flag posted next to it.

When he found one, he carefully placed the wreath with a red ribbon on the ground, looked up at his father, Pete Gallus, and smiled.

His father nodded in approval.

“The sacrifices these men and women have given to our country, these kids need to know that,” he said.

That’s why he brought Roy and his older brother Michael to the event that was part of National Wreaths Across America Day. Americans in every state honored the nation’s heroes by placing 1.7 million veterans’ wreaths on their headstones and remembering them, by saying each name out loud.

Michael Gallus did his part as he placed a wreath, then stood in a moment of silence, saluted, and said, “Thank you for your service."

“Being part of it, showing respect, is real important,” Pete Gallus said.

On a cloudy, windy morning, about 100 people turned out for the brief ceremony at Pinegrove Cemetery that included speeches, an honor guard and the playing of Taps. When it was over, kids and adults took wreaths and fanned out to place them with veterans buried there.

Dee Sasse, commander of America Legion Post 154 in Rathdrum, was pleased with the crowd.

“Folks in Rathdrum are awesome. They come and support our veterans in this town like there’s no tomorrow,” she said.

Sasse said it's important to both let the younger generation see how veterans are honored year-round, and to celebrate the service and lives of veterans in their final resting place.

“Just to let them know that even during the holidays, we haven’t forgotten them. If you say their name out loud, that means their memory is alive again,” she said. “That’s the biggest thing I bring back from it. When we say their name, salute them and lay a wreath on them, they are still alive with us.”

Bill Kinder 1st Vice Commander, Rathdrum Post 154, said, “The remembrance part of it is the best part. It’s great. It really is — just thinking about those who have passed on.”

“We should do that every day,” he added.

For Wayne Brewer, it was a time of pride, joy and reflection.

The veteran served with the 82nd Airborne Division in the Army from 1948 to 1958.

When he was asked in advance to place a wreath Saturday morning, he called it the greatest of gifts.

“The honor for me, was just fantastic,” he said.

It raised his spirits at a time he has been down.

His wife of 59 years, Rita, died Dec. 6 and he misses her greatly.

The next day, Dec. 7, Brewer turned 91. He counts his blessing that he was able to be there for the laying of the wreaths, and that he calls Rathdrum his home.

“This is the best city I have ever lived in, and I’ve lived in quite a few,” he said. “It’s unbelievable, the friendly people here.”

Brewer said he met a couple in Super 1 Friday and told them about the Wreaths Across America ceremony.

They came, which made an emotional Brewer pause as he shared the story and tap his chest with his fist.

“The friendliness of these people,” he said, his eyes glistening. “Look at them.”

Still around him were men, women and children, some carrying wreaths, some holding hands as they looked on gravesites, some walking away to their cars to go home.

Brewer, with a gray beard and mustache, smiled. It was a good morning. He was feeling better. And when he finds himself feeling low, he thinks about Rita and the life they shared.

“I remember some of the things she’s done and it perks me up,” he said.



Bill Kinder, 1st Vice Commander, Rathdrum Post 154, salutes at Pinegrove Cemetery on Saturday as part of National Wreaths Across America Day.



Wayne Brewer



Dee Sasse, commander of America Legion Post 154 in Rathdrum, salutes during the National Wreaths Across America Day ceremony at Pinegrove Cemetery on Saturday.



Michael Gallus places a wreath at a veteran's gravesite on Saturday at Pinegrove Cemetery.



Veterans wait to fire their rifles during the National Wreaths Across America Day ceremony at Pinegrove Cemetery.