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Transit Center officer spends leave honoring veterans with son
Colonel Brian Newberry and his son Matthew place a wreath on a veteran’s grave at Union Cemetery in Leesburg, Va., Dec. 10, 2011. Matthew, a Life Scout, was inspired to raise money to place a Christmas wreath on each veterans' grave after a trip to Arlington Cemetery last December. The colonel was able to participate in the wreath laying ceremony while on his mid-tour leave. He is deployed from the Pentagon to the Transit Center at Manas, Kyrgyzstan, as the 376th Expeditionary Operations Group commander. (Courtesy photo)
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Transit Center officer spends leave honoring veterans with son

Posted 12/15/2011   Updated 12/15/2011 Email story   Print story


by Tech. Sgt. Tammie Moore
376th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

12/15/2011 - TRANSIT CENTER AT MANAS, Kyrgyzstan -- The 376th Expeditionary Operations Group commander spent his mid-tour leave honoring veterans who have gone before him, as he watched his son's Eagle Scout project come to completion.

Matthew Newberry, a Life Scout, was inspired to raise money to place a Christmas wreath on each veteran's grave at the Union Cemetery in Leesburg, Va., after a trip to Arlington Cemetery last December.

"My dad is in the military and most of my extended family is as well, so I wanted to honor them while doing a project that honors all the veterans who are fighting to keep our freedom," Matthew said. "Where I live, we have a long history of military heritage going back to the (U.S.) Revolutionary War, so I thought it would be possible to bring the (Wreaths Across America) project to my community."

Matthew's dad, Col. Brian Newberry, is proud of the work his son put into the project and grateful to have been part of the ceremony.

"I initially was slated to go home next year, but for various reasons I needed to move it up to December, allowing me to watch him honor the veterans," said Brian Newberry, who is deployed to the Transit Center at Manas, Kyrgyzstan, from the Pentagon. "In retrospect, I am elated it worked out because I could not be prouder of him for his leadership, his nobility of purpose and his thoughtful reflection on the purpose of the project."

Eagle Scout Service Projects provide Scouts an opportunity to demonstrate their leadership skills by organizing an endeavor that benefits the community, a school or religious institution. There were four parts to Matthew's project, which began with a review of the cemetery.

"A team of Scouts had to survey a part of the cemetery to see which graves are veteran graves," Matthew said. "To do that, I made a sheet and had each surveyor write down the name, rank, branch and war in which the veteran served. Then they would locate that grave on a map and make a note so we could find it later. The cemetery is very large so after two survey parties, we decided to decorate the graves in the five sections nearest to the center of the cemetery."

"After surveying the sections, I determined we needed 120 wreaths," he added. 

Raising funds for the wreaths proved to be the most challenging part of the project for Matthew. He solicited donations from businesses and town residents.

"My initial donation solicitations went slow," said Matthew. "But it went much better when I started to talk to neighbors near the cemetery. I found going door-to-door to be the most meaningful because I met many neighbors who knew the veterans and many wanted to come to the ceremony to honor the veterans in person. Leesburg is an old town and the townspeople are very close to each other. People wanted to support the project and it became very important to me to make sure we succeeded in honoring these veterans."

The wreaths were laid during a ceremony led by Troop 2970 and the Leesburg Civil Air Patrol Dec. 10, 2011.

"The most meaningful part of the day was going out and personally laying the wreath at four veterans' graves of neighbors in Leesburg who asked me to honor their relatives," Matthew said. "It was humbling and special to me. Some of those people came to the ceremony and I was able to show them how well youth can honor our veterans." 

The colonel witnessed six distinguished transfers during his deployment to the Transit Center since July.

"Sadly, I know many who continue to pay the ultimate price," he said. "I also know our veterans have continually answered the call to defend our country and our way of life. Walking the grounds of Union Cemetery, I am proud my son was able to pause a moment in his busy life to learn a little about veterans from the Civil War to present."

Growing up as son of a veteran has given Matthew a respect for the sacrifices made by those who serve.

"This project was important to me because my dad is overseas now and I see the TV reports on how hard our troops are fighting to prevent another 9/11 from happening," Matthew said. "I visited Ground Zero and I still remember it. Eagle Projects are about service to community and service to others. Wreaths Across America is a great annual service event that is slowly spreading across the U.S. I wanted to do my part to bring it to my community and to get fellow Scouts involved so we could show how much we respect the troops for what they do for our country. Without them, we would not have the great country we have today."

Being home to participate in the ceremony meant a lot to the colonel.

"As a veteran myself, I deeply appreciate these young men remembering them," said Brian Newberry. "My son and I have visited Gettysburg several times and we read the Gettysburg Address whenever we go. President Lincoln's famous speech opens, 'The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.' In the same vein, I hope this new annual tradition in Leesburg will help others not to forget the service and sacrifice of America's veterans."

Matthew feels the same and hopes this wreath laying becomes a tradition in his community.

"My final goal is for this project to happen again next year and grow so more of the community can get involved to honor those who protect our freedom," he said.

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