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Volunteers lay wreaths at cemetery

Hundreds of volunteers walked the grounds of Albert G. Horton Jr. Memorial Veterans Cemetery in the rain on Saturday to place thousands of wreaths on each and every gravesite.

This annual event saw many new faces coming to visit loved ones for the first time, and it saw some of the same faces it has seen for the last decade.

Taylor Harvey had the opportunity of a lifetime for the first time this year. This was the first year she was invited to place the ceremonial wreath on the gravesite of her great-grandfather, Albert G. Horton Jr., after whom the cemetery is named.

“For me it was an honor, because it was the first year I had been asked,” Harvey said. “His legacy is long lasting for me. He was the one that thought about the cemetery, and he wanted to have more veterans’ cemeteries in the area.”

The experience was just as special for others that visited for the first time.

Angela Quattlebaum spent an emotional moment laying the wreath on Robert Doles’ gravesite. Doles was a U.S. Air Force veteran and her father.

“It means a lot to be out here. This is my first time, because I’m normally a mess and I can’t do it,” said Quattlebaum. “It means a lot to put this on my dad’s grave.”

Some have been coming for years, and this annual event is still just as meaningful this year as it has been in years past.

Ralph Branchaud has been coming to this event for the last five years, and he has the opportunity to visit his father, friends and every other gravesite in the cemetery.

“It’s amazing to see the people who are having a little service by the graves,” Branchaud said. “I make sure when I am here I say a few words in silence.”

Branchaud, along with other volunteers, kept walking back to the FedEx trucks to load up with six to eight wreaths on their arms.

Despite the rain, it didn’t take long for the volunteers to completely fill the cemetery with holiday wreaths.

After the wreaths were laid and the volunteers were soaking wet, they gathered at the committal shelter for a ceremony. The ceremony featured Rear Adm. Charles Rock, commander of the Navy Mid-Atlantic Region.

“You all are absolutely incredible. You inspire and motivate me,” Rock said to the volunteers at the cemetery. “Thank you for your resilience.”

Rock reminded those present of the importance of Horton’s legacy and the legacy of all those buried at the cemetery.

“It is up to us to continue that legacy that Horton left us. Today and in the years ahead, we need to remember those that serve and what they did for us,” Rock said. “We need to look forward and teach future generations the impact these men and women made in our great nation.”