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Speaking as the guest of honor at Saturday's Wreaths Across America event at Beaufort National Cemetery, World War II veteran Bob Waldrop told a story that reminds him of what the American flag stands for.
It was about an incident he witnessed in a camp as a prisoner of Germany.
"You're locked in at night and bars are placed across the only exit and entrance door," he said. "One morning in the barracks next to where I was stationed, one of the POWs got up to push on the door and (the bar) was off, and that's a pretty good indication that it's OK to go out."
The man went out, walked across the compound where the prisoners were counted every day, turned around and made it about halfway back before he was shot from behind by a guard in a tower.
"His fellow POWs in his barracks tried to get out to help him, but they fired some shots in front of the door and they of course turned back in," Waldrop said. "So he laid out there and died, from loss of blood mostly."
Using sewing kits and colored chalk provided by the international Red Cross, Waldrop and some other prisoners fashioned an American flag out of "a bunch of rags" for a burial ceremony. Such stories led Theresa Raley to become involved with Wreaths Across America, a nationwide effort that started 15 years ago with Maine-based Worcester Wreath Company's Christmastime donation of wreaths to Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
"This is the kind of thing that I think is very important," said Raley, who coordinated Saturday's local event. "We're having a conversation about our freedom to go express ourselves anywhere we want, and the reason it's because of those men and women in Beaufort National Cemetery and the ones that are overseas right now."
Seven wreaths were laid, each representing a different branch of the U.S. military -- the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard and Merchant Marines -- and the Department of Defense's prisoner of war and missing personnel office, or POW/MIA. The wreaths, which Worcester Wreath Company sends to more than 200 state and national veterans' cemeteries, will be displayed through the holiday season.
Bob Townsend of the Civil Air Patrol in Charleston, which has a cadet program for people ages 12 to 21, attended the ceremony and said it's a great way for young people to get to know veterans.
"To be able to talk to our veterans and to understand their place in history and the history of our nation, it's a great experience for them," he said.
Kevin A. Trillo, retired from the Navy and the master of ceremonies for Saturday's event that drew more than 100 people to the cemetery, hopes the public keeps the past, present and future sacrifices of military personnel in mind year-round, but especially around the holidays.
"I know we're fighting a war now, but there were many wars before that," he said. "It's important, especially the active-duty guys ... it's important for them to remember that we remember them."