JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The city of Jacksonville’s Military Affairs and Veterans Department invited the public to lay wreaths Saturday at the Veterans Memorial Wall in honor of Jacksonville’s fallen heroes.
The event wasn’t held last year because of the pandemic.
The site just outside of TIAA Bank Field is the second largest veterans memorial wall in the country with more than 1,700 names of men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice.
Two names were added this year.
The wreath-laying ceremony was particularly special for the family of George Woods, who said he would have turned 71 on Saturday if he had not died while serving his country.
His wife, Jacquelyn Woods, said it was emotional being at the ceremony Saturday.
“It’s like trying not to cry, because you think about how he passed and I just had talked to him two days before he passed, and to be home with two little boys and a baby was hard,” Woods said. “He was an ejection seat canopy specialist for the Marine Corps and a Navy P3 tried to make an emergency landing but it hit the hangar and blew it up.”
Woods said George was in the hangar working the night shift after trading with someone so they could be with their family.
The Woods’ youngest son, Kevin, was just 17 months old when his father was killed on duty in the Philippines on April 15, 1975.
“Growing up I never knew him, I just knew pictures of him,” Kevin Woods said.
He eventually followed in his father’s footsteps and joined the U.S. Marine Corps. He said it brought him closer to his father.
Jacquelyn Woods said in her last conversation with her husband he asked about how their sons were doing and said he would call again that weekend.
“That weekend call never came,” she said. “Just the officers showed up at the door.”
That visit from the Marine Corps notifying her of her husband’s death is a story many families who laid wreaths Saturday could also recount.
Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Linnington, the CEO of Wounded Warrior Project, said it’s an honor to serve those who serve our country -- and their families.
“Every day for me is Veterans Day or Memorial Day,” he said.
The city of Jacksonville’s Memorial Day Observance will be shown on Memorial Day at 8 a.m. on the city’s website and YouTube channel. The director of the department said he hopes next year’s observance will be held in person.