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Thu, June 27

National ceremony honors veterans

Daryl Neil, of Phoenix, salutes after laying a wreath at the grave of Prescott’s Unknown Soldier during the Saturday morning Wreaths Across America event.
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The Daily Courier/Jo.L.Keener

Daryl Neil, of Phoenix, salutes after laying a wreath at the grave of Prescott’s Unknown Soldier during the Saturday morning Wreaths Across America event. <br> The Daily Courier/Jo.L.Keener

PRESCOTT - At cemeteries across the country, people came together simultaneously to place wreaths on the graves of fallen American military personnel Saturday. Members of the Patriot Guard Riders organized Prescott's contribution at the Prescott National Cemetery.

"This is the second year we've done this," said "Psycho Joe" Dugan. "Since PGR is in all 50 states they're using us to help facilitate the wreath-laying ceremonies through our state organizations. The main ceremony is at Arlington National Cemetery, and all the others are timed to take place at the same time as that one."

Dugan said Worcester Wreath Co. started the program more than 15 years ago by donating thousands of wreaths for Arlington. PGR placed one wreath for each branch of the military at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Prescott cemetery.

"I'm proud to be a part of this event," said PGR member John Gardner. "What makes the group, and this event, work, is that we've got a lot of veterans, but also a lot of non-veterans; just patriotic people who respect and appreciate what those people have done to uphold our constitution and our rights."

"Our group's statement is clear cut; we're not about politics or any particular administration, we're about the soldiers," Patriot Guard Rider Frank Carrano added. "Honoring the soldiers is important, no matter how you feel about the politics of the day. When I came back from the service, just before Desert Storm, I saw people protesting the soldiers, holding up signs and shouting at soldiers. I'm glad that people here don't seem to be like that; they know how to separate politics from the men themselves."

Although many of the PGR riders travel far to attend events like the wreath-laying ceremony, Dugan said for him, it's more than worth the effort.

"People ask me why I'll travel to one end of the state in the morning and ride to the other in the afternoon to attend a homecoming or a sendoff," said Dugan. "I remind them that those boys sign up to give their lives up, to leave behind all they know and the people they love, often to go to a strange place where they'll endure terrible weather, hostiles, life-threatening danger, to fight for us. If I have to drive a few more miles in the cold, it's well worth it; to lay that wreath, or give that salute, to honor them."

On the web:

www.wreaths-across-america.org

Contact the reporter at dmeurer@prescottaz.com

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