Wreaths Across America honors military at national cemeteries

Published 12:05 am Sunday, December 18, 2016

By Josh Bergeron 


SALISBURY — In life, Christopher Barton was known for many things.

He had a kind heart, loved sports, enjoyed hunting and had a joker smile, said gold star wife Heather Barton. Despite his lackluster singing voice, Heather Barton said her husband loved to belt out tunes from singer and songwriter Taylor Swift.

“He was a man’s man and a girly girl at the same time,” Heather Barton said. “He loved romance movies and doing romantic things, but he also loved working out and doing all the kind of guy stuff like shooting and hunting.”

Christopher Barton, a 22-year-old from Concord, died on May 24, 2010, while serving in the U.S. Army in Afghanistan. He was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division and died after his unit was attacked.

Heather Barton said her husband’s death came two weeks before he was scheduled to come home.

On Saturday, Barton and her mother Beth Godwin presented a wreath in honor of Christopher Barton during a Wreaths Across America ceremony at the Salisbury National Cemetery Annex.

During a formal ceremony, gold star families and veterans presented special wreaths for the Marines, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, Merchant Marines and prisoners of war or those listed as missing in action. A large crowd of people attended and stood in silence as gold star families and veterans presented the wreaths. Later, attendees would place more than 2,000 wreaths on some of the several thousand graves in the Salisbury National Cemetery Annex.

Roughly 1,200 more wreaths were also placed during a separate event at the Salisbury National Cemetery near the intersection of East Monroe Street and S. Railroad Street.

Ronnie Faggart, an event organizer, told the crowd of people gathered at the cemetery annex it was important to remember the sacrifices of members of the military who died protecting America’s freedoms and those who are currently serving. He said male and female members of the military have died so that Americans can live without fear.

“We still have people that care and people are willing to do whatever it takes to honor and remember the people who have fought to preserve the freedoms that we have,” Faggart said after Saturday’s ceremony.

Faggart said it’s his goal to be able to place one wreath on every one of the several thousand graves in the Salisbury National Cemetery Annex. There are more than 7,000 graves at the annex. Last year, the total was between 6,000 and 6,500 at the time.

“We’re chasing,” he said. “We’re chasing a total that’s growing on us.”

Wreaths Across America is a nationwide program that aims to honor veterans laid to rest at national and state cemeteries. This year, an estimated 1.2 million wreaths were placed at 1,228 locations nationwide.

Faggart encouraged people to donate to the nonprofit group Wreaths Across America so future ceremonies in Salisbury would include enough wreaths to cover every grave in the annex.

This year, donations ranged from Kennedy-Hall American Legion Post 106 to a young girl named Rylee Harrelson, who saved her allowance to purchase a wreath to place on a veteran’s grave.

For more information or to donate, visit wreathsacrossamerica.org.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246