‘It’s right to the heart’: Sons, Legion Family lay wreaths to honor veterans

Standing before the granite column representing California at the World War II Memorial, Sons of The American Legion National Vice Commander James Fischer reflected on the veterans in his family.

“I’m here representing my grandfather, my father, my uncle who served in World War I, World War II and the Korean War (respectively), and I have two brothers who served in Desert Storm and my son served in Afghanistan,” Fischer said. “… I was born on Memorial Day, and my grandfather was 70. He said I was God’s gift to him; he lost his leg in World War I. Then when I got my contractor’s license 31 years ago, I got it on Pearl Harbor Day even though I tested in August.

“Everything in my life has been reminders of the importance we have taking care of our veterans.”

Sons of The American Legion, Legionnaires and Auxiliary members from across the nation participated in wreath-laying ceremonies around Washington, D.C., on Feb. 25 during the Legion’s annual Washington Conference. They were joined by Samsung American Legion scholarship recipients.

It’s been a regular event for the SAL, but SAL National Commander Don “JR” Hall reminded participants to not think of the event as routine.

“I hope you didn’t come out for any other reason than who you represent,” Hall said. “… Think about it as this year, this time, this moment, and make sure that when those wreaths are being laid, you’re saluting the service of your family. You’re saluting the service of our veterans. You’re saluting our flag, and you’re saluting the United States of America. That’s why we’re here.”

The opportunity to honor veterans helped bring Detachment of New Hampshire Commander Scott Douglas to the event for the first time.

“This means a lot to me … my father was in World War II and the Korean War, so for me to come here from New Hampshire to Washington and to get to lay a wreath out in his name … it’s right to the heart,” Douglas said.

The SAL and other Legion Family members laid wreaths at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery and the Vietnam, Korean War and World War II memorials at the National Mall.

“You realize how much others have given for what we have,” said Marty Widmer, a member of Squadron 262 in Audubon, N.J., and the Camden County SAL chaplain after the wreath-laying at Arlington.

A contingent from Florida also stopped at the Vietnam Women’s Memorial to lay a wreath.

“It gives your whole body chills to know all this has happened before you, and having a moment where you can just take a moment, pay your respects … it’s kind of overwhelming the way your body feels,” said Department of Florida legislative chair Stuart Scott.

For Charles Curtis, a member of Squadron 283 in Pacific Palisades, Calif., and the SAL national legislative commission, the memorials are “breathtaking.”

“This one means a lot to me,” Curtis said at the World War II Memorial. “Both of my grandfathers served during World War II. One was in the press corps, and he actually met my grandmother in Italy. My other grandfather served in Army intelligence, so we didn’t really get to know a lot from him.

“I’m here today representing more than me. I’m representing both of them and thanking them for their service. These monuments are breathtaking and it’s unfortunate that not everyone can come here for whatever reason. Being able to be here means so much, I really can’t put it into words.”