The annual Governor’s Wreath Laying Ceremony was held Monday, a week in advance of Memorial Day, at the Statehouse in Columbus.
Under overcast skies dignity and patriotism were on display from the military band, which could have been a recording they had such precision had you not been there to hear and see them playing live, to the Gold Star Families patiently waiting for the event to begin, to members of the legislature who sat alongside them.
The colors were posted in a crisp display of professionalism and reverence for the banners of our nation and state while the national anthem was sung by a talented choir of students.
When everyone had finished reciting the pledge of allegiance, and Rev. Richard Ellsworth, an Ohio State Highway Patrol Chaplain, finished his insightful invocation, the speakers took to the podium and microphone.
First, Brittany McCall, a Gold Star Wife, explained the significance and meaning behind the wreath then shared a personal and emotional message to the other Gold Star Families.
She was followed by Chip Tansill, Director of the Ohio Department of Veterans Services. Tansill cut right to the chase about why we hold this ceremony.
“We live in a wonderful, patriotic state that truly understands the meaning of service and the power of the heartfelt support when support is needed,” said Tansill. “When Abraham Lincoln stood on the battlefields of Gettysburg and gave his famous address, he asked us to ‘take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion.” Today we want gold star families to know we cherish your sacrifice to Ohio, our nation, and the free world. Sgt. 1st class Jeremiah Johnson and Sgt. Cameron Thomas, you and your families are in our hearts and will always, always be there.”
Governor John Kasich was up next and instead of staying behind the podium and reading from prepared notes, the term-limited politician snagged the microphone and walked down the steps of the Statehouse to stand in front of those gathered at their level.
He paced back and forth for the next 8 minutes talking about how difficult losing a loved one can be, how it can take you to a dark place, and how he believes that if you ask God to help you he just might.
It was like a sermon on a Sunday morning, where he talked about what he thinks comes after death. Taking no credit for the idea, Kasich told the families present that when you die, it’s like walking into the next room; you are no longer here, you are there but you can still hear the people in the previous room.
Kasich concluded his keynote address with this, “Thanks for your service. God bless you. We’ll heal together.”
As bagpipers played Amazing Grace and the Governor, Tansill, and McCall all helped place this year’s wreath, the sky opened up.
The light raindrops were cool as they struck our skin, the tears from heaven had held off long enough.
As the ceremony came to a close, the rain picked up in intensity to a steady pour, and then it was over; the rain stopped; those who had gathered had moved inside; and another wreath honoring those who sacrificed everything to protect our way of life had been placed.
A few hours later, I walked back to where the wreath was on display now fully bathed in sunlight. I could smell its fragrance from several feet away and still do. I carry it with me like the memory of those who are gone.