Residents honor veterans with Wreaths Across America

Posted at 3:52 PM, Dec 13, 2014
and last updated 2014-12-14 08:39:45-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.-- People across the country, and even some worldwide, gathered in veterans cemeteries Saturday to honor fallen heroes. One of those events was held right here in Grand Rapids where hundreds of people played a small role in Wreaths Across America.

"It's a huge opportunity to reach out to the community, to instill the values in the children that freedom is not free. Somebody has to make payments," said Major Keith Sikkema.

Major Sikkema hosted the Grand Rapids version of Wreaths Across America. He's a disabled veteran and part of a family that's served the country for decades.

"It's very, very moving. I have a son who's a pilot in the Air Force. I have my Uncle Erwin here who is a World War II veteran and the whole concept of 'Remember, Honor and Teach' is a very powerful thing for me," Major Sikkema said.

Sikkema's goal is to continue to honor and remember those who fought and those he fought alongside.

"They gave us our freedoms, they gave us the right for me to stand here today and talk to you and for us to just respect them in a way that honors them," said Rick Conklin, who plays 'Taps' at the ceremony.

The Grand Rapids ceremony was just a small part of an international tradition. It's called Wreaths Across America. People around the world simultaneously gathering to honor the men and women who protected the United States.

"I think it's important because our veterans fought for us. They fought for our rights and our freedom and I don't want anyone to forget that," said Sonya VanValkenburg,who helps organize Wreaths Across America in Grand Rapids.

Nearly 400 wreaths were placed on veterans' gravestones Saturday morning.