Why Bridgeport? A Thank You to Those Who Serve

By Jon Griffith on April 13, 2024 from Why Bridgeport? via

Service and Sacrifice.
Concepts that are well understood and personal for certain groups of people in our society. Members of the military, law enforcement, and first responders embrace service and deal with sacrifice daily.
I have great respect and appreciation for those who have and are serving. They are essential to supporting, protecting, defending, and preserving our way of life. We would not be the America we are without them.
No matter the area they serve or have served, they and their family must accept tremendous uncertainty and responsibility upon entering these professions. I have not been a part of those three vocations myself. However, like most West Virginians, I have many family members and friends who have been.
Each group is presented with a different set of demands and challenges. However, in each case, they are prepared to risk their lives on behalf of others. On behalf of you and me. None are a calling for the faint of heart or those lacking resolve and determination.
While all three of these areas deserve admiration and gratitude, for this blog, I will focus on those who are or have been a part of the United States military.
Many of the members of the military I know often try to downplay the importance of what they do, but without them, our world would look very different, and not in a good way. They do a tremendous job across the U.S. and abroad, both in times of war and peace.
West Virginia has the sixth-highest percentage of veterans per capita in the U.S. As a state, we understand the importance of our military and have always answered the call. Patriotism and military service are hallmarks of West Virginia culture.
Bridgeport is no exception. Our community is filled with active and retired military personnel. They are some of our finest residents. We are proud of their service. The City of Bridgeport shows our respect and appreciation for our veterans in two prominent ways.
The first can be found at the intersection of Main Street and Philadelphia Avenue. The Bridgeport Veterans Memorial was dedicated in May of 2016. The site is being updated through private donations with four additional dogwood trees for a total of five to match the five individual pillars of the memorial. The site will also receive some new landscaping and a thorough cleaning.
The Bridgeport Veterans Memorial honors those who have served in the five branches (as of 2016) of the United States military: Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard. Of course, the U.S. military now has six branches due to the addition of the Space Force in 2019. The potential addition of a pillar to honor the members of the Space Force may be something for us to consider in the future.
The other method of recognizing our gratitude and sincere admiration for our veterans is the annual Wreaths Across America campaign and ceremony. Held in mid-December each year, the ceremony is the culminating event for a year-long campaign to receive donations and raise funds to provide a wreath for every veteran interred in the City of Bridgeport Cemetery.
The program was brought to Bridgeport by Christa Parker. Christa’s family is deeply entrenched in the military. Her father and father-in-law were in the service. Her husband, Chris, and her son, Garrett, are both military veterans. When Garrett passed away suddenly in 2014, Christa wanted to find something to honor and pay tribute to members of the U.S. military and their families. She discovered a way in the Wreaths Across America program.
This past December marked the eighth year for the Bridgeport Cemetery to participate in this nationwide program. Currently, the number of veterans in our municipal cemetery stands at 1675. Unfortunately, that number grows with each passing year. A dedicated group of volunteers, Team Bridgeport, is led by Christa Parker and Tricia Bombardiere. Together, they work diligently to accomplish this goal of honoring every veteran in the cemetery each year.
Starting the week after the Wreaths Across America ceremony, they begin working for the following year. Things are already well underway for 2024. If you want to support this worthy cause, wreaths can be donated directly through the online website (HERE) or by contacting Christa or Tricia at the Bridgeport Cemetery.
Team Bridgeport also participates in the Wreaths Across America “3 for 2” program. If you donate two wreaths, the national organization donates one to our local group for free. When you donate, you can also designate a service member to commemorate. Those individuals’ names are read at the annual ceremony.
Other fundraisers are undertaken each year to supplement the direct donations. This past year, a Boot Drive was held downtown. Also, the ever-popular Hometown Gnomes drew a great deal of online attention. Activities like these, in conjunction with direct donations, help ensure the success of the Wreaths Across America program in Bridgeport.
Why Bridgeport? Service and sacrifice are not strangers to us. We recognize, commend, and honor those who serve their country and community. Whether in military service, law enforcement, or as a first responder, the City of Bridgeport and our residents respect and appreciate what you and your family risk on our behalf. While our efforts to honor you may fall well short of the sacrifices you make, know that our gratitude is genuine and sincere. Thank you.
Editor's Note: Top photo is of the city's Veteran's Memorial, while the bottom two images are from recent Wreaths Across America events.

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