Local Scouts received a history lesson as they placed wreaths on the graves of military veterans at the Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell during the Dec. 10 Wreaths Across America ceremony, hosted by U.S. Military Vets Motorcycle Clubs' North Florida chapters.
Plant City Troop 1107 of the Girl Scouts, (a Christian-based girl scout organization), Boy Scouts of America Gulf Ridge Council Timucua District representatives Troops 14, 524 and 516, as well as various Cub Scout packs, including the 690 from Plant City, were in attendance.
Troop 14 Boy Scout leader Allen Bell brought his 88-year-old grandmother, Eliene Hutton Bell of Gainesville, to the ceremony so she could place a wreath on the grave of her husband, Chester Bell, who was killed in World War II.
"My grandmother and I are proud of my grandfather's service to his country," said Bell. "We didn't expect the ceremony to be so heart-wrenching for both of us. It was an awesome experience to be on such hallowed ground and in the presence of so many heroes."
Keynote speaker U.S. Army Lt. Col. Norma J. Vargas reminded the audience of the incredible cost of war.
Ann Doak, the leader of the Plant City American Heritage Girls Troop 1107, called Wreaths Across America a well-organized event that provides opportunities to experience history through interaction with the men and women who lived it.
"Just the sheer impact of seeing all those rows of white tombstones decorated with green wreaths with their red bows, brings a lump to your throat," she said. "The men and women reminded all of us that while freedom is not free, allowing freedom to be taken away or withheld is not what this country represents. Having the opportunity to honor our fallen heroes during this Christmas season by placing wreaths on the grave sites reinforces the blessing of freedom and the significance of remembering and honoring those who protect that freedom."