Wreaths honor vets – one 350 miles away
It was Christmas Day, 1991, and Charles Funchess was glad to be able to spend Christmas with his wife Ida and son Isaac. Called to duty in 1990 in the Persian Gulf for operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, he missed Christmas with his family the previous year. Staff Sgt. Funchess was among 150 members of the Crystal Springs-based 162nd Military Police Company who spent the holidays in Saudi Arabia. They celebrated with a tree in the barracks and sang some carols, otherwise, it was work as usual. Funchess retired from the military in 1991 after 20 years with the National Guard and 4 years with the U.S. Army. He worked for Kuhlman until he retired in 2008. Ida passed away and he married his second wife, Mary, in 2001. Funchess passed away this year, but his wife made sure he would be remembered this holiday season. She purchased a veteran’s wreath which was placed on his marker in the city cemetery on December 14. His memory and his service to his country will not be forgotten. Not all of the veterans wreaths purchased this year were placed in local cemeteries. One made its way to Greenville, Georgia, 350 miles away. Gladys Bowie wanted desperately to have a wreath placed on her brother’s marker at the Greenville Presbyterian Church. With no Greenville organizations participating, it was a challenge figuring out how to get it there. In stepped Chief Master Sergeant Stacy Gilman, owner of the Wisteria Inn, who works in Macon, Georgia and regularly makes the commute. Greenville just happens to not be far from Macon. He graciously accepted the request to place the wreath on Private Howard S. Flournoy’s gravesite. Flournoy was killed in battle in southern France in 1944, toward the end of World War II. He was only 21 years old. Even though there are multiple American cemeteries in Europe where the remains of thousands of Americans are buried from both world wars, the family chose to have Flournoy laid to rest in Georgia. When the cemeteries were commissioned after World War I, families were entitled to have their loved ones buried on foreign soil, or brought home. Flournoy was brought home and honored in a ceremony in Greenville in 1949. Bowie was beyond thrilled to receive photos of the wreath, resting on her brother’s grave. The other siblings have passed away so she felt the urge to honor his memory and service to his country. It is because of his and the other thousands of men and women who gave their lives that we are able to celebrate freedom not only during the holidays but every day.