Civil Air Patrol wreath-laying 2020

Chief Master Sgt. Omar Ayazi, a cadet with the Leesburg Composite Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol’s Virginia Wing, salutes the grave of a local veteran after laying a wreath atop it at Union Cemetery in Leesburg on Dec. 19.

Cadets from the Leesburg Composite Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol’s Virginia Wing brought Christmas cheer to the final resting places of nearly 600 military veterans by placing wreaths atop their graves at Leesburg’s Union Cemetery on Saturday, according to Civil Air Patrol (CAP) officials.

“It is a small token of gratitude we can provide each year to remember those who came before us,” squadron commander Maj. David Thornton said in a statement.

As an offshoot of Arlington National Cemetery’s nearly 30-year-old wreath-laying project, CAP began its Wreaths Across America program in 2006.

Despite the COVID-19 health crisis having hindered many holiday traditions this year, the Leesburg cadets observed proper mask and social distancing protocols to honor the local deceased.

“We’ve performed this deed annually — rain or shine — and our cadets have always shown up in full force, even with the current climate,” Thornton said.

After the wreath-laying procedures, cadets held a small memorial service at the 1908 Chapel on the cemetery’s grounds, where a member of the CAP honor guard placed six additional wreaths — one for each of the four military branches, Prisoners of War and those Missing in Action.

Youth aged 12 to 18 are welcome to enroll in the Civil Air Patrol Cadet Program, and volunteer opportunities are available for adults. More information on the Virginia Wing is available by contacting Thornton at david.thornton@vawg.cap.gov or by visiting gocivilairpatrol.com.

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