Floral support: John’s Islanders place wreaths at vets’ graves


Misting rain and ominous clouds created a poignant background as more than 60 John’s Island residents and volunteers gathered during national Wreaths Across America Day to lay wreaths on the graves of the more than 90 veterans buried in the John’s Island Cemetery.

The annual ceremony is a visual symbol of remembrance and gratitude; a way to ensure that the service and sacrifices of veterans who served our nation will never be forgotten.

John’s Island Real Estate became involved with the program at the behest of Wheatie Gibb, after she participated in a wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington Cemetery several years ago.

“It never left my heart,” said Gibb, sharing that the experience made a lasting impression.

This year, in lieu of a gift to John’s Island residents, John’s Island Realty donated funds to Wreaths Across America in a meaningful gesture of support.

The wreaths, each adorned with a red bow, stood in stark contrast to the day, dotting the graves of the historic cemetery, which dates back to the early 1900s. Today it lies within the confines of the gated community.

Although the ceremony is generally held at Veterans Memorial Island Sanctuary, the decision was made to hold it at the John’s Island Cemetery this year as the island was still inaccessible due to bridge construction.

The solemnity of the occasion was highlighted by Duke Scales playing “Taps” and bagpiper Liam Ritchie playing “Amazing Grace,” and attendees were visibly moved as they reflected on the role veterans have played in obtaining the freedoms we enjoy today.

The Wreath Project extended far beyond the John’s Island Cemetery. That same day, approximately 600 volunteers placed 2,800 wreaths on veterans’ graves throughout the county, including at Crestlawn, Sebastian Municipal, Gifford, Winter Beach and Wabasso cemeteries.

Joe and Sue Crowley said that when they moved to Vero Beach seven years ago, they discovered that wreaths were not being placed on the graves of veterans in the county.

Having participated in the ceremony in Massachusetts, they joined with Rick Lewis to organize a Wreaths Across America program here, which has continued ever since.

“Those men and women have served their country; they have given everything they could, and some of them, unfortunately, have given it all. But anyone who signed up to serve knew that at any time, that could be their last day,” said Joe Crowley.

“It’s not just the decoration of a grave. We are honoring and remembering our veterans,” said Crowley, advising that each name be read out loud to memorialize and honor their sacrifices, to educate the younger generation and to ensure that they are not forgotten.

Over 2 million wreaths were placed nationwide at about 4,000 locations in 2023. For information about how to sponsor or volunteer, visit wreathsacrossamerica.org/FL0500.

Photos by Joshua Kodis

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