Students, staff take part in wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery

WCU representatives take part in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

WCU representatives take part in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Staff members from Western Carolina University’s Office of Military Student Services and leaders from the university’s Student Veterans Association recently had an opportunity to visit Arlington National Cemetery to participate in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

The office’s Briana Ford and Jaime Dills joined student veterans Alex Nelson and Kristian Hooker in visiting the tomb that holds the remains of unknown service members from World War I, World War II and the Korean War. The memorial is guarded around the clock by soldiers of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, also known as “The Old Guard.”

Arlington National Cemetery and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier are located across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. Public wreath-laying ceremonies are held at the tomb several times each day to honor servicemen and servicewomen for their ultimate sacrifice. “The most fulfilling opportunity and honor as a veteran was to have the chance to participate in the wreath-laying ceremony,” said Hooker, the student group’s vice president and a U.S. Army veteran.

WCU’s Military Student Services office supports military-affiliated students in both resident and distance programs, said Ford, office director. The department provides a variety of services and continuously strives to find ways to support and thank members of the military through initiatives including an annual Christmas card drive and Veteran’s Day Luncheon. The wreath-laying ceremony was the latest example of that support, she said.

“We have military-affiliated students with comrades buried at Arlington Cemetery, and I am honored that WCU had the privilege of showing our respect to our veterans in this way,” Ford said. “It was an amazing opportunity for us.”

Dills, the office’s certifying official, served in the U.S. Army National Guard, while Nelson, president of the Student Veterans Association, is a veteran of the U.S. Marines.