Live Oak County Historical Commission
Live Oak County Historical Commission

Wreaths Across America (WAA)

Each December wreaths are placed on every grave in Arlington National Cemetery. Live Oak County has chosen to be among the 2,100 other sites where this tradition is continued across the nation. Live Oak County Historical Commission appointees join in saying thank you to all the men and women who have helped protect our nation from its inception to this day. Enjoy the Live Oak County Wreaths Across America 2020 Virtual Tour! Photo from Wreaths Acoss America.

WAA Virtual Tour at George West Historic Texas Cemetery 

Photos, below unless otherwise stated, by Jeff Osborne, editor of the Live Oak & McMullen Progress, a local newspaper disseminating local news and advertising.

Larry Holm arrives Thursday, December 17, with WAA wreaths for George West Historic Texas Cemetery (GWHTC) veteran graves. Melanie Smith helps get boxes off pick-up bed. Robin Dawson McKinney helps in organizing wreaths for Saturday Memorial.

Glynis Holm Strause is President of the George West Historic Texas Cemetery Association and Secretary and Oral History Chair of the LOCHC. She is also President of the Dobie West Performing Arts Theatre Board. Glynis has a number of family members buried here including her husband, great niece, parents, and in-laws. Her father-in-law, Thomas Lynn Strause, Sr. served as a US Marine in WWII and its Pacific Theatre. He, too, received a wreath during this day's memorial. Glynis still finds time to rake grounds in preparation for this Live Oak County WAA Veterans' Memorial service set-up

Grace Wilson is an active appointee of the Live Oak County Historical Commission. She designed and prepared the RefreshmentTable under a tent for the George West Historical Texas Cemetery WAA Memorial Saturday morning before time for guest arrivals. Grace is president of Unify to Beautify, a Live Oak County organization that helps take care of artifacts, buildings, and sites throughout the county. They sponsor a Ranch and Home Tour every year which folks from all over look forward to visiting. She is a decorator and event coordinator for many Live Oak County celebrations. Members of Grace and her husband's family receiving wreaths here are Willis B. Wilson (Dates not clear on marker) and his son, Marcellus Wilson Staff Sargeant US Air Force WWII. 

Bernadette Cardona Gibson served as LOCHC Education Chair for the 2019-2020 biennium and continues to be a vital part of the organization. Bernadette is a librarian for Mathis Independent School District. She and her husband own a ranch that includes land in both Live Oak and Bee Counties. Their two sons are each outstanding athletes at Texas A&M University at Kingsville. Their family is interred in Tynan (Bee County), but Bernadette is always present to do her part.


Live Oak County VFW Post 6119, Harvey Hamrick L. and Dennis Zamzow R. leading participants and audience in salute to the American Flag. Background Robin McKinney L. and Blayne Huston R.

Participants and audience stand with hands on hearts.

Blayne Huston standing at the podium sang "The Star Spangled Banner", America's nathional anthem. Blayne also sang the National Anthem at  Gussettville and St. George WAA Memorials. Glynis Strause, on the left, is President of the George West Historic Texas Cemetery Association, and emceed the program. Jim Warren and Clifford Word are in the background to the right.


One of the best things about counties like Live Oak is the cross-age respect and comaraderie among people of farm and ranch communities. Mr. Jim Warren (seated), retired archeologist, professor, rancher, military officer, and once President of the Texas Longhorn Breeders Association is a revered LOCHC stalwart as Archeology Chair and other positions since the 1880's. No longer ready for up and down calisthenics, Live Oak County gatherings would not be the same without him and others of similar age. Mr. Warren knows the land, people, and history of Live Oak County like few others.

Rodeo Queens and 4-H Volunteers: (L-R) Mary Grace Peters, Saeliegh DuBose, Syndilyn Maguglin, Shaylyn Maguglin, and Shambryn Dubose, stand ready to give wreaths to family members who will place wreaths on their veteran graves. 4-H is a national organization promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion. The 4-H's stand for Head, Heart, Hands, and Health. 4-H is delivered by Cooperative Extension, a network of public universities, 500,000 volunteers and 3,500 4-H professionals to 6 million 4-H'ers across the nation. Kids and teens complete hands-on projects in health, science, agriculture and civic engagement in-school, after-school, at-home, school and community clubs and 4-H camps.

George West High School students representing the National Honor Society (NHS): (L-R) Kate Davis, Carson Polasek, Tucker Wallek, and Honda Goebel, stand ready at the WAA George West Historic Texas Cemetery to assist in getting wreaths for veteran grave placement to family representatives. They also place wreaths on veteran graves which have no representation present.


The National Honor Society for high schools recognizes young scholars who demonstrate excellence through academic achievements based on objective criteria, including grades and test scores. Students must meet any one of certain criteria to be considered such as: 3.5 cumulative GPA (4.0 Scale) or higher (or equivalent such as 88 on a 100-point scale), 1280 SAT score or higher, 1150 PSAT score or higher, 26 ACT score or higher, Score 4 or higher on any AP exam, total combined !B test scores of 36 or higher, AGCSE Grade A or higher, or top 10% rank in class. Receiving NHS recognition helps place students on track for college and university acceptance as well as scholarships. NHS students are encouraged to be active in well-rounded school and community participation.  

George West High School National Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) representatives: Simon Fuentes, Raquel Martinez, and Rebecca Martinez, are eager assistants in this George West Historic Texas Cemetery WAA Memorial. They help family members who come to the event get wreaths to place on their deceased veteran's graves, make sure veteran grave markers without family present also have a wreath and assist with the memorial in other ways.

As FCCLA members the students are involved on local, regional, state, and national levels through national programs, competitive events, and community service. Members develop skills for life through Family and Consumer Sciences Education in and after school hours. 

Following Photos show living veterans placing the Seven Service wreaths on their stands. (Waiting for a few names and branches of service to complete.)

Jim Warren and Clifford Word - Honoring the United States Air Force.

Lindsay Clifton Carpenter presents for her mother, Cathy Clifton, who served in the US Marines. To the left is Chip Stroble and on the right is Harvey Hamrick.

Happy Coquat served 20 years in the United States Air Force. Here he places the United States Merchant Marine Wreath on its stand to honor all those who served in the Merchant Marines.

Don Martin adds a wreath to honor the US Navy.

VFW Commander Mark Dobbins placing the wreath. Sonny Ybanez beside the tree with other veterans.

Jeff Osborne, Live Oak & McMullen Progress Editor, presents the POW/MIA wreath. Osborne received a four-year American Legion college scholarship based on his grandfather's WWII Army service. Osborne has interviewed POWs captured in the WWII Battle of the Bulge and Java campaign. Also an Air Force helicopter pilot shot down, captured and held in Vietnam for seven years. Sonny Ybanez on extreme left, Jim Warren in chair, Blayne Hutson in rear, Clifford Word in blue shirt. Shawn Ray Alvarez, veteran from US Coast Guard, and Blake Fudge on the right. 


Mary Margaret Campbell addresses audience at the George West Historic Texas Cemetery Wreaths Across America Memorial Service. Campbell was 2019-2020 biennium LOCHC Vice Chairperson and Hospitality Chair. Live Oak County Judge Jim Huff and the Live Oak County Commissioner's appointed her to serve as Chair of the Live Oak County Historical Commission for the 2021-2022 biennium.

Cindi Robinson and Robin Dawson McKinney look on near by. Each were involved in the preparation and ongoing of the service. They are among the most active of LOCHC appointees and GWHTC supporters.

Glynis Holm Strause, President of the George West Historic Texas Cemetery Association (GWHTC), honoring all veterans at Wreaths Across America memorial.

Glynis asked for the following who helped in making this an auspicious ceremony be recognized: Robin McKinney, Larry Holm, Pauline Word, and Nathan Stroleny who power washed the gateway. George West Historic Texas Cemetery Association appointees Grace and Rodney Wilson and Mary Margaret Campbell. Special thanks to Garcia Graveside Services for setting up the tents. Another special thanks to County Commissioner Emilio Garza for mowing, removal of trees and debris and the City of George West for removal of trash from cans. 


Shared from Strause's Honor Statement: (From the Progress, Dec. 31, 2020.)


"More than a million Americans are coming together to remember, honor and teach," she said. "This nation is a shining beacon of freedom and liberty to the world.

"We thank those who gave their lives to protect our freedom...

"We are not decorating for Christmas; we are here to remember, and we remember not their deaths but their lives. This is a symbol of appreciation from a grateful nation." 


Cyndi Robinson in background. Jeff Osborne and Blake Fudge also in photos.

Trumpeter, Blake Fudge, Three Rivers Independent School District Band, plays "Taps" to close the George West Historical Texas Cemetery WAA Memorial gathering after each branch of service was honored. Living veterans stand at attention. Wreaths are then placed on all veteran graves in GWHTC. From L standing at attention during Taps are Gipper Nelson (active LOCHC appointee), Sonny Ybanez, Mark Dobbins, Chip Stroble, and Harvey Hamrick. Blake played Taps for Gussettville and St. George cemetery WAA memorials which followed.

                             Taps Lyrics


Numerous versions of Taps lyrics exist. Below for your enjoyment is one from the US Army HooahCappella Choir.

WAA at Gussetville Catholic Cemetery. 

Photos below, unless otherwise designated, by Jeff Osborne, editor of the Live Oak & McMullen Progress, a weekly newspaper disseminating local news and advertising. 

Wreaths readied for dissemination by Tish Williams for family representatives for the historic St. Joseph's Catholic Church and well preserved Gussettville Cemetery. Many in Live Oak County are descendants of original Irish families who came to Live Oak County by sailing on Coffin Ships from Ireland to America in the 1820's and later. On America's eastern seaboard, they were quarantined while waiting approval; then they moved on to sites including Texas, a state of Mexico at the time. Some embarked from soil bordering the Gulf of Mexico.


Mexico granted John McMullen and James McGloin an Empresa in 1828. Mexico began issuing grants in Live Oak area to some of these Irish families in 1831 and 1835. Until then the property first belonged to Spain and next to Mexico. Spain only issued one grant in the area issued to the Ramirez family during its control. That family was killed and survivors run off by marauding Indians traveling deep into Texas.


Though promised at the time Irish families came, grants took time. Some families began settling the area before grants from Mexico were final. To receive a Mexican Grant, the head of the family, either a man or a woman, had to be Catholic. Since Irish Empresarios were promised land to settle, their emigrants received the greatest numbers of grants in these early years. A few Mexican families, not part of the Empresa, were given grants in the same area. Two Mexican brothers, Francisco and Luis Leal, were the only Mexicans among those to receive grants from Mexico to Live Oak County lands in 1835. Each brother chose to stay in San Patricio County and eventually sold all their property in Live Oak.


Yet, some ancestors of Irish and Mexican families fought or participated during the 1835-36 Texas War for Independence. Afterward, they were all citizens of the Texas Republic and eventually the United States of America. Some graves in this cemetery show Irish birthplaces dating back to the late 1790's. Many now living in Live Oak County and South Texas are descendants of Texans who participated in the Texas War for Independence.

American Flag is raised by American Legion Post 413 at Gussettville Catholic Cemetery on the grounds of St. Joseph's Catholic Church. The Gussettville Cemetery and St Joseph's Church histories go back to the early settling of the county. The church began with a small hand hewn board fastened to a Live Oak tree to serve as an altar. A small wooden church between two trees was next. The present building above was built and then dedicated on July 28, 1876. 









Proclamation delivered at Gussettville Cemetery on the grounds of St. Joseph's Catholic Church and near the old town of Gussettville.











"The Star Spangled Banner" sung by Blayne Huston at WAA Memorial Services at Gussettville Catholic Cemetery.

American Legion Post 413 placing wreaths honoring the Seven Military Services of the United States of America at the foot of Gussettville Catholic Cemetery's statue honoring Christ and the two women, Mary the mother of Jesus and Mary Magdalene.

WAA wreaths honoring the Seven Military Services of the United States of America beneath the statue at the entry to Gussettville Catholic Cemetery.














Taps played by Blake Fudge to close the service at the Gussettville's Catholic  Cemetery Wreaths Across America Memorial near old Gussettville. Wreaths were placed on individual graves afterward.

St. George Catholic Cemetery

St. George Catholic Cemetery with wreaths for 7 military services. This statue is very similar to the one at Gussettville.


At each cemetery service these words from Ronald Reagan, 40th president of the United States (1981-1989)were read:


"Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free." from the Progress, Dec. 31, 2020.


This photo contributed by Peggy Skoruppa.

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