Lt. Col. Quicy Collins (right) moves a wreath into view during the annual Carolinas Freedom Foundation Veterans Day Wreath Laying Ceremony in uptown Charlotte. NCNG / Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Brian E. Christiansen
A Charlotte Fire Department Honor Guard stands at attention in front of the Bank of America Tower during the annual Carolinas Freedom Foundation Veterans Day Wreath Laying Ceremony in uptown Charlotte. NCNG photo by Tech. Sgt. Brian E. Christiansen
It's been like this for 18 years. An open invitation for average bankers, lawyers, brokers, service staff, bus drivers, firefighters, librarians, who walk past this event each year, in the busy heart of the biggest city of North Carolina. It's an invitation to sit and watch a 10-minute wreath laying ceremony in honor of veterans everywhere, and those who aren't with us anymore. There are always chairs open.
The busy time of high noon in a big city scatters workers like ants to restaurants, meetings, (more) coffee, and even possibly an early tee time, but not to fill more than a few seats. Some stop and listen to the emotional heart piercing words spoken by Lt Col. Quincy Collins, a retired Air Force officer who spent more than seven years as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam conflict, but others keep walking by.
Freedom. Patriotism. Honor. Glory. Words that are so easy to remember, but so lengthy in definition, and so common that they are assumed. In 1995, Lt. Col. Collins helped organize and create the Carolinas Freedom Foundation, a way to educate young people the importance of citizenship, while continuing to honor those who serve both in the military and other fields of community service. Collins created his organization because of concerns that there wasn't enough patriotism in the community.
Toward the end of the service, Collins moved the wreath to center stage. He backed up and saluted it. For just a few seconds, people from all directions stopped in their tracks. They stopped talking on their cell phones. Immediate destinations were paused. For just a few minutes, he reminded all of us, what it is to honor.