As the holiday season nears an end, I finally have the time to reflect on the past year and realized that one of my highlights of the year was being the Associate Director of Wreaths Across America. Yes, it was a busy year, a year that we spend most of it working toward December. But as a Gold Star Mom, I thrive on the opportunity to work and do anything I possibly can that has to with veterans. For me getting the opportunity to spend time with them and talk with them is therapy. This year on December 16, 2017 we were blessed with absolutely beautiful weather and because of that the turn out for our Wreaths Across America day was very successful. But for me there were two highlights I would like to share. First, having veterans standing at the back of church waiting for me with open arms knowing I needed a hug, they are always there when I need that extra encouragement just like they were ready to serve our country with whatever was demanded of them. The second was seeing all the people on the cemetery giving our deceased veterans the honors that they are due. On that day not a single one of them was forgotten. Such an amazing experience that I was honored to be a part of. Happy New Year, everyone and we hope to see you all next year on December 15, 2018 to Remember, Honor and Teach about the sacrifices that were made for our freedoms, they deserve everything we do.
Saying Their Names,
Elaine Leusink, Associate Director
This August, I had the opportunity to visit the tipping grounds where the Remembrance Wreaths that go all over our United States come from. With roughly 20 sections of trees in the Worcester tipping grounds dedicated to past service members from all conflicts, a sense of peace comes over you. The Veterans Remembrance Tree Program was established as another way to remember and honor our veterans. As Gold Star families visited the land where the balsam tips are harvested each year for the wreaths that are placed on veteran’s graves, they found a sense of peace and tranquility from the land. Wreaths Across America established a program to give them a living memorial to honor their lost loved ones.
“We created the Veteran Remembrance Tree Program because we wanted to find a way to recognize the fallen soldiers and their families in a more permanent way,” explains Karen Worcester, Executive Director of Wreaths Across America. “This endless forest is a truly visual representation of our unwavering commitment to our mission to Remember, Honor and Teach and to recognize our fallen soldiers and families this year and for many years to come.”
With all of this in mind, Sioux Center Wreaths Across America sponsored and tagged 15 trees in Section 16 for the 15 fallen members of our community that we specifically remember each Memorial Day. These men, while buried in different locations across the globe, will have their legacies continue to live on in Columbia Falls, Maine.
I've said this before and still believe it's true. What we do is more than simply decorating graves. It’s a silent message to all veterans, their families, and those currently serving that we will REMEMBER their service, we will HONOR their lives, and we will TEACH future generations the importance of citizenship and how our freedoms have been preserved over time.
In our day in age where it seems like the values of freedom are becoming less and less, I challenge you all to take the time on Saturday, December 17th to say the name of veteran and thank them for the opportunity to live in the Land of the Free. Thank you and may God continue to bless the United States of America.
Saying Their Names,
Aaron Van Beek | Director
The American Veteran is one of our greatest treasures, those men and women who answered our nation’s call, especially in times of great need. Who is a Veteran? Title 38 of the Code of Federal Regulations defines a veteran as “a person who served in the active military, naval, or air service and who was discharged or released under conditions other than dishonorable.” When an American makes the choice to serve in the military, they become a part of a tight-knit community. The same thing happens when they leave, too. They become a veteran, joining tens of millions around the country.
National Wreaths Across America Day, which we participate in mid-December, is a day in which we remember all service members who are now deceased, both in peace and war time. Memorial Day is set aside as a day in which we honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice - their life for our freedoms and for those around the globe.
Whether they know it or not, veterans have positively affected me. Without their sacrifice, the world I know may have been drastically changed. Veterans were prepared to die for their cause. All veterans and especially the honorable persons that do not remain with us today have paid in full the high price for freedom and the life we all know in America. Considering the enormity of what veterans have accomplished brings me to greatly appreciate and admire them. Largely, that is why I take such an interest in the organizations I serve with as well as assisting with the Iowa Boys State program.
Veterans Day, which we observe on November 11, is a day in which we recognize the service of all veterans that were members of the US Armed Forces. It's a day that we stop to say "thank you" to those that answered the call from Uncle Sam to serve our great country. These veterans never asked for anything in return for their service to our country. Freedom is not free and freedom is not cheap. I consider veterans to be of the highest quality of role models. Veterans encourage me to love my country. They fill me with great respect for them and this country. And finally, veterans inspire me to live a life dedicated to the things I believe to be right - a patriot to our country. This Veterans Day, take the time to say "thank you" to one of our American Heroes so they know that you not only love the freedoms you have today but that you also appreciate their service and sacrifice to our country. May God continue to bless our American Heroes and may God continue to bless our United States of America.
Saying Their Names,
Aaron Van Beek | President & Director
The Sioux Center American Legion Auxiliary Unit 199 and Sioux Center Wreaths Across America sponsor a poster contest for K-12 students each year. Posters must reflect the mission of Wreaths Across America as well as this year’s theme (mission: “Remember Honor Teach” – theme: “I'm an American!”). Please do not use any other phrases. Posters must be made on regular poster paper. The size of the poster can range from 11” x 14” up to 22” x 28” only. Mediums including paint, crayon, colored pencils, charcoal, magic markers, or whatever inspires the students can be used.
Posters are judged based on the following criteria: 50% for universal appeal (layout), 30% for artistic ability (design and color), 10% for originality, and 10% for neatness. The contest is divided into the following 4 divisions and prizes will be awarded for each division:
Division 1 - Grades K through 3
Division 2 - Grades 4 through 6
Division 3 - Grades 7 through 9
Division 4 - Grades 10 through 12
Division 5 - High School Digital Media
The deadline to submit poster entries is NOON on Monday, November 13, 2017 to the Sioux Center Public Library. Please make sure the posters remain FLAT. Please label the BACK of the poster with the student’s name, school, grade, and parent's names (do not attach).
Thank you for helping our mission of Remember, Honor, Teach.
Sioux Center Wreaths Across America is proud and excited to announce the selection of Elaine Leusink of Sioux Center as our new Associate Director. Elaine first heard about National Wreaths Across America a few years ago. Shortly after this she was contacted by the Sioux Center Boy Scouts that they were going to get involved with the local organization and was invited to attend the first National Wreaths Across America Day in Sioux Center back in December 2015. Leusink and her husband Bill live in Sioux Center and have four children, one son-in-law, two daughter-in-laws and four grandchildren. She notes the two of them love spending time with family and their family loves opportunities to meet and visit with our veterans.
When asked what made her want to get involved with WAA, Elaine responded, "I was just super excited about the thought of doing something for our veterans, these men and women deserve all the honor and respect that we can give them. I had been looking for a way to honor my son. I am a Gold Star Mother and my involvement with this organization and what it stands for allows me to feel close to my son and what he fought and died for."
Wreaths Across America and the Gold Star Mothers Organization have always had a great relationship nationally. As a Gold Star Mother, Elaine added this, "Gold Star Mothers and Gold Star Families understand in a way that no one else can as to what military families sacrifice. When one of their son's decides to commit their lives to the military, it is a family commitment. There are times that things in our lives are second because their duty to their country comes first. Gold Star Mothers have given one of their most precious gifts to our country, so it is only natural that when the ultimate sacrifice is made, we feel extremely committed to the nation that this sacrifice was made for. Our sons' did their duty with honor and pride and we will continue to carry on that legacy any way that we can."
Sioux Center Wreaths Across America President and Director Aaron Van Beek was excited when Elaine contacted him about getting more involved with the local organization. "Elaine has brought a bunch of great ideas to our organization already since joining and I'm excited to see how these ideas will be implemented with our annual National Wreaths Across America Day Ceremony taking place on Saturday, December 16th. She knows the importance of our mission: Remember the Fallen, Honor the Brave, and Teach the Youth. She's the best person in my opinion to fulfill our mission here in Sioux Center and nationally." Sioux Center is only one of a few local cemeteries that participate - most are large State and national cemeteries. Van Beek noted that Sioux Center's organization has caught the eye of National Wreaths Across America and is excited to get the addition of Leusink out to them as well.
Van Beek brought Wreaths Across America to Sioux Center as a local organization back in 2015 and has served as President and Director for the organization since. Leusink has been helping on National Wreaths Across America Day since the beginning as well. Last year, her family was presented with a Remembrance Tree in Section 18 of the Worcester Tree Farm in Harrington, Maine. Each year, his tree will be clipped to make the thousands of wreaths that will be placed nationwide. For the past two years, between donations and other organization's fundraising efforts, both Sioux Center's Memory Gardens and Carmel's Cemetery have been fully covered - just under 400 wreaths were placed in 2016.
"Remember this.... In truth a person dies twice, once when we each stop breathing, and a second time when somebody mentions their name for the last time." Join them on December 16, 2017 at 11 AM at First Reformed Church when over one million volunteers nationwide, will say the names of a million fallen out loud, to make sure they don't have to die a second time. To learn more about Sioux Center Wreaths Across America, please visit www.siouxcenterwaa.org. To donate, visit www.siouxcenterwaa.org/sponsor.
Ever year for as long as I can remember, I've been part of the Sioux Center Memorial Day Parade and Ceremony. Whether it was riding a decorated bike at a young age, marching with the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts in uniform, or performing with the men's quartet, the past 21 years have taught me a lot about what this day really means. But do we all truly understand the significance of this national holiday?
Veterans Day, which we observe on November 11, is a day in which we recognize the service of all veterans that were members of the US Armed Forces. National Wreaths Across America Day, which we participate in around mid-December, is a day in which we remember all service members who are now deceased, both in peace and war time. While all of these deal with honoring veterans, Memorial Day was set aside as a day in which we honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice - their life for our freedoms and for those around the globe.
Memorial Day is not just an extra day off from work. It's certainly more than a day at the lakes or a family BBQ. It's a day to honor our fallen service men and women who, when asked, stepped forward to defend the oppressed. It's a day to remember and honor their service and their sacrifice.
James Doornink, Albert Brunsting, Jon Dieters, Bernard M. Vermeer, Bert Kroon, Benjamin Vermeer, John A. Kempers, Arie Moerman, Peter De Boer, David E. Vermeer, Gerrit Ter Haar, Randal Karl Schutt, Charles Aadema, Arlin D. Franken, and William J. Leusink. These are the fifteen names you will find inscribed on the granite stones that circle the memorial in Sioux Center. Each was a son, each was a solider, each was an American Hero, and each paid the price of their life for the life of another.
So you may be asking yourself, "What can I do to honor our fallen American Heroes?" Come out and watch the parade on Monday morning. Honor our nation's flag by standing and removing your cap each time Old Glory passes by. Listen to a special speaker and special music at the cemetery or tune into KSOU. Say a small prayer for each hero as their name is read and their flag is lowered. Do you have an American Flag flying at your home or business? Ensure that it is either at half-staff or tie a black ribbon to the top that is the same length as the flag between the hours of 8 AM and 12 PM.
These veterans never asked for anything in return for their service to our country. Freedom is not free and freedom is not cheap. Join me and millions of others nationwide as we dedicate this day to our fallen heroes. Together, we bring comfort to families hurting from the pain of losing a loved one. Together, we stand united in honor of those who gave their all. Together, we remember.
Sayings Their Names,
Aaron Van Beek | President & Director