Cheer Squad Remembers Fallen Heroes

Volunteering through a program called Wreaths Across America, where Americans nation-wide gathered at 11 a.m., on Saturday, Dec. 13, to lie wreathes on the graves of veteran cemeteries in all 50 states, the team spent the morning at Leavenworth National Cemetery on Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. 
"I think it's important for individuals to know what people have done for us to be free and the sacrifices they've made," said K-State cheer coach Dani Ruoff. "The wreath laying ceremony was very moving and very touching. It was a small way that we could give back to the men and women who have sacrificed their lives and to the families who sacrifice for us."
While Wreaths Across America's main goal this year was to place a wreath on each of the 400,000 graves in Arlington National Cemetery to recognize the cemetery's 150th anniversary, Leavenworth National Cemetery received more than 700 wreaths from the program to lie on its graves. 
"We think it's important to support the military," said senior cheerleader Laura Pilney. "We went out to lay wreaths on the fallen soldiers' graves, and it was very touching. There were a lot of tears during the ceremony."
The choice to take the two-hour trip to Fort Leavenworth with the team was made on a complete volunteer basis, and Ruoff was happy to say she had a total of 15 cheerleaders this year, both male and female, attend. 
"This was the second year that we attended the ceremony and laid the wreaths," explained Ruoff. "We started going last year and we had only five individuals from the team go, but this year we had much more interest."
K-State cheer got involved with Wreaths Across America through Maj. Nancy Pilney, Laura Pilney's mother, who served in the United States Army for 24 years. 
"The team displayed so much honor and respect for these fallen members of our military and their families," wrote Nancy in an email to K-State Sports Extra after the event. "These graves meant something to them; it was heartwarming. Each of the members were given the task of laying wreaths and noting the name on the headstone. Their task was then to find out something about the person whose wreath they had laid. This is something that is asked of all the volunteers, to find out about the grave that they lay a wreath on, so that these soldier, marines, airmen or other service men and women will not be forgotten. It's not just a name, but someone worth knowing."
Wreaths Across America was established in 1992 by Morrill Worcester of Harrington, Maine, and has since spread from Arlington National Cemetery to nearly 600 locations, including at least one in every state, Puerto Rico and 24 overseas cemeteries (you can click here to learn more about the organization).
A touching, eye-opening morning, participating with Wreaths Across America is something Ruoff hopes to continue with the team in the years to come. 
"It's something that I would like to do with the team year after year," concluded Ruoff. "We grew from last year to this year with the people who have gone out. It was a nice day - we went there for the morning, they had the ceremony and then we helped put the wreaths on the graves. We had lunch, and then we headed back to Manhattan. We like to get involved with both the military and the community. We like to give back because they give a lot to us."

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