Friday, December 12, 2014

TOP STORY >> Wreaths honor Cabot’s fallen

Leader staff writer

The Wreaths Across America program made a stop Friday at Cabot High School to honor veterans and remember service members who attended Cabot schools and died serving their country since Sept. 11, 2001.

Two semi-trailer loads of balsam fir memorial wreaths were brought from the Walmart Distribution Center in Searcy to Panther Arena and then to the National Military Cemetery in Fayetteville for National Wreath Laying Day on Saturday.

State Police and the Freedom Warriors (motorcycle) Riding Association of Searcy escorted the Walmart trucks of wreaths to and from Cabot.

Walmart is using 16 tractor trailers to transport more than 80,000 wreaths from Columbia Falls, Maine, to memorial ceremonies in 13 states and Washington as part of the company’s involvement in Wreaths Across America. Walmart donated $150,000 to purchase 30,000 wreaths.

Local families were given wreaths in memory of their fallen loved ones, who were:

• Air Force Master Sgt. Daniel Wassom, 31, assigned to the Arkansas Air National Guard’s 189th Airlift Wing.

Wassom died April 27 using his body to shield his 5-year-old daughter as a tornado demolished their house.

• Army Sergeant Jason Swindle, 24, assigned to the 1st Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment, 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Stewart, Ga.

Swindle died Sept. 20, 2012, of injuries sustained when he was attacked by a rocket propelled grenade while on mounted patrol in Panjway, Afghanistan.

• Army Sergeant Brandon Smith, 24, assigned to the 82nd Airborne, F Company, 2-508 Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, Fort. Bragg, N.C. Smith died March 15, 2011, in Fort Bragg from non-combat related injuries.

• Marine Corporal Curtis Obal, 22, assigned to Camp Robinson. Obal died Dec. 12, 2009, from non-combat related injuries in Little Rock.

• Army First Lt. Thomas Martin, 27, assigned to the 1st Squadron, 40th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, Fort Richardson, Alaska.

Martin was killed Oct. 14, 2007, when terrorists attacked his unit using small arms fire during combat operations in Busayifi, Iraq.

• Specialist Ronald Baker, 34, assigned to the Army National Guard’s 39th Support Battalion, Arkansas National Guard, Lonoke.

Baker died Oct. 13, 2004, in Landstuhl, Germany, of injuries sustained a week earlier in a car bomb attack on his patrol vehicle in Taji, Iraq.

Pam Wassom, mother of Dan Wassom, said, “This is humbling that he is being honored. The wreaths are a nice symbol of hope that I’ll get to see him again someday.”

Col. James Treece of Beebe, brigade commander of the 87th Troop Command of the Arkansas Army National Guard, spoke to the students about the ultimate sacrifice the former Cabot students made to protect our freedoms.

“These freedoms come from the United States Constitution. It is a written guarantee that, as long as your action is not considered harmful to others, the Constitution allows you to do almost anything you want — when you become an adult. It is a powerful document,” the colonel said.

“The Constitution is only as strong as the resolve of the men and women who are pledged to defend it,” Treece added.

“Anytime there has been a threat to liberty, brave men and women have answered our nation’s call to serve in our nation’s military,” he continued.

“Freedom is a great thing. If you want to decorate a sweater to where it is the most hideous Christmas sweater you ever had on in your life and wear it to school, you can do that,” Treece said.