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Veterans honoring Veterans

The graves of 12 Continental Soldiers from the Battle of Camden in 1780 were recently located and moved to Quaker Cemetery.
The remains of 12 Continental Soldiers from the Battle of Camden in 1780 were recently located and moved to Quaker Cemetery.

CAMDEN, South Carolina – (December 16, 2023) Approximately 175 volunteers came together to honor Veterans during the National Wreaths Across America Day ceremony at Quaker Cemetery here, including local Veteran groups and employees of the Columbia VA Health Care System.

       “We are so grateful to the organizers, volunteers and Wreaths Across America,” said Darlene Cantey, one of the board members of the Quaker Cemetery Association Board. “We are touched by the placing of the wreaths for our Veterans and for all of the work behind the scenes. This program means so much for our families, and the remembrance of those who served our country.” It was the fourth year Quaker Cemetery has participated in the annual event.

        “My family and I had the privilege of honoring our nation’s heroes by participating in this year’s National Wreaths Across America Day, at Quaker Cemetery in Camden, South Carolina,” said Shannon Stone, a voluntary service specialist at the Columbia VA Health Care System. “This kind of exposure and experience will hopefully stay with my grandchildren as they grow and teach them the importance of not only recognizing our fallen military, but what it means to volunteer and serve others.” Stone is a U.S. Navy Veteran. 

         The concept for WAA started in 1992 when a wreath company in Maine had 5,000 wreaths left over and donated them to the Arlington National Cemetery. It became very popular and in 2006, WAA was created as a non-profit and expanded outside of Arlington. In 2023, WAA had 4225 participating locations across the country and 26 overseas cemeteries, placing an estimated three million wreaths.

         “I think it is important for those of us who serve to remember why we serve. Veteran remembrances are not just for the general public,” said U.S. Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Keagan Herring. “I can only hope that 100 years from now, someone speaks my name to honor my service as we do for those when we lay wreaths for those who passed before us.” Herring placed the memorial wreath on the Coast Guard flag during the ceremony. 

            The ceremony included the Pledge of Allegiance led by Boy and Girl Scouts, the National Anthem sung by local singing group ‘Renaissance', the Lugoff-Elgin High School JROTC Color Guard, the Camden Military Academy working side-by-side with the LE JROTC Honor Guard, memorial wreaths placed on each service flag by uniformed member of each service, the honor firing from Revolutionary War cannons, taps by a live bugler and a bagpiper playing ‘Amazing Grace’ to close the ceremony.

            “The South Carolina Battleground Preservation Trust Revolutionary War Artillery Demonstration Team played a vital role in this year’s event,” said Tom Oblak, the gun crew commander, a retired U.S. Army Veteran. “The team brought two cannons for the honor firing, showcasing their commitment to historical accuracy and engaging demonstrations.” 

            Dressed in authentic uniforms, one crew embodied the spirit of the Continental Marines, boasting a composition of three out of four members who are retired Marine Corps Veterans. The second crew represented the Continental Army, featuring a blend of military experience with one Army veteran and a dedicated member of the Lugoff-Elgin High School JROTC Program. 

            Quaker Cemetery opened in 1759 and has approximately 850 Veterans from the American Revolution to Afghanistan. There are three Medal of Honor recipients and multiple Silver and Bronze Stars from multiple conflicts. There are generals to privates, governors, mayors and a U.S. Supreme Court justice. There’s even a member of the French army who stayed in the Colonies after the French and Indian War and became a successful South Carolina businessman.

            “We love participating in this activity, especially at Quaker Cemetery,” said retired U.S. Army Maj. Clyde Howell. “There is a section called ‘Little Arlington’ where three Medal of Honor recipients are buried side by side. I felt honored and humbled.” 

“For me personally, it's important to honor all Veterans because they have given so much to this country and others,” said Christine Rogers, a U.S. Army retiree. “If it weren’t for Veterans, we would not be the country that we are, and I would not be who I am. The Veteran is the backbone of our country.” Rogers is the commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 11079 in Elgin, S.C.

           Fourteen Soldiers from the Battle of Camden in 1780, were recently discovered at the battle site. Cooperation between the South Carolina Institute of Archeology and Anthropology, the South Carolina Battleground Preservation Trust and the Historic Camden Foundation resulted in the excavation of the 12 Continental Army Soldiers and two British Soldiers. The 12 Continental Soldiers are now buried at Quaker Cemetery. The final disposition of the two British soldiers is still pending.

            “We thank the volunteers, the Sons of the American Revolution, the Daughters of the American Revolution, the American Legion, the Marine Corps League, the Scouts, our Revolutionary War cannon team and all who helped, grave by grave,” said Julian Burns. Burns is a retired U.S. Army major general and former Kershaw County Council chairman. Several of the Burns family are buried at Quaker Cemetery, a number of them Veterans.

“Kershaw County loves it’s Veterans,” added Burns. “That affection is yearly demonstrated in Wreaths Across America – for a nation which neglects its Veterans is undeserving of their sacrifice.” 

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