Photo Information

A wreath stands in front of Brig. Gen. Archibald Henderson's grave stone in The Congressional Cemetery in Washington D.C., Nov. 10, 2014. Marines from Marine Barracks Washington, D.C., conduct wreath laying ceremonies at grave sites of former commandants in the National Capital Region, in honor of the Marine Corps’ birthday. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Melissa Karnath/Released)

Photo by Sgt. Melissa Karnath

Honoring legacy with solemn ceremonies

18 Nov 2014 | Sgt. Melissa Karnath Marine Barracks

The Marines’ shiny black shoes stepped upon the early morning, dew-covered grass as they walk toward the final resting places of their brethren.

The sound of a bugle abruptly breaks the silence surrounding these gravestone markers.

“We do this to honor them and also to honor our heritage and our legacy,” said Maj. Paul Steketee, the adjutant for Marine Barracks Washington, D.C., and participant with the gravesite wreath laying ceremonies.

Since November 10, 1954, Marine Barracks Washington, D.C., has conducted wreath-laying ceremonies at grave and memorial sites of former commandants in the National Capital Region, to honor them on the Marine Corps’ birthday. Deceased sergeants major of the Marine Corps have also been honored since 2004.

Teams consisting of a Marine Corps officer, an enlisted Marine and a bugler conducted each ceremony. After a moment of silence was observed, a wreath decorated with scarlet and gold ribbon was then placed in front of the grave marker followed by the sounding of taps.

Throughout the day, the teams traveled to different gravesites including the U.S. Naval Academy Cemetery, Congressional Cemetery, Oak Hill Cemetery and Arlington National Cemetery to honor these former leaders of the Marine Corps.

Following these individual observances, a final wreath laying ceremony took place at the Marine Corps War Memorial, Arlington, Va.

The Barracks Marines in their dress blue uniforms smartly executed drill movements as they marched to the front of the memorial as the United States Marine Drum and Bugle Corps and The United States Marine Band provided music throughout the ceremony.

The 36th Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Joseph Dunford, Jr., presided as the wreath was laid at the base of the massive memorial of Marines and corpsman raising the flag on Mount Suribachi, the iconic moment during the Battle of Iwo Jima the memorial immortalizes.

A multitude of Marine veterans and observers, many were wearing caps, shirts, vests or jackets emblazoned with Marine unit names and symbols, watched in silence.

“We are gathered here to pause for a few minutes and reflect on the men and women called to the service of our nation as United States Marines,” Dunford said. “Beyond paying tribute to those, who have gone before us we are here to reaffirm and strengthen our commitment to uphold those high ideals and to carry the colors high on our watch.

“We do all this to make sure that those Marines, who were taken from us prematurely will be able to look down and know that their lives had meaning.”

After the wreath was placed, riflemen fired volleys before a lone bugler sounded taps in memorial to all Marines, who have defended freedom, security and liberty.