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Scout spearheads solemn wreath laying project

Pride, gratitude and enthusiasm are all feelings that 15-year-old Payne Atkins Nunn hopes the Virgilina community will feel after attending a wreath laying ceremony at Virgilina Cemetery on Saturday, Dec. 15. 

What started out as a project to complete his Eagle Scout requirements quickly turned into a ceremony to honor veterans.

Nunn hopes the wreath laying ceremony he has organized will bring a sense of pride and gratitude to area veterans.

“I hope that the ceremony will be solemn as is any occasion when recognizing the dead but also to be joyous in order to show our gratitude for the veterans’ service,” said Nunn.

Nunn is a Virgilina resident, sophomore at Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, member of the Hargrave Military Academy’s Boy Scout Troop 68 and is on the verge of completing his Eagle Scout requirements.

One of the requirements is to lead in a service project. While brainstorming ideas for the project, Nunn and his dad, Mark, came across the ceremony Arlington National Cemetery holds every year laying wreaths in honor and memory of all military branches and veterans.

Nunn is officially affiliated with Wreaths Across America, which is now a worldwide organization that organizes events such as the one he has organized. The organization is best known for its work at Arlington National Cemetery.

“We decided to have the same thing but in our community. I decided if I could coordinate an event such as this, it could provide a great sense of pride and gratitude toward our local veterans throughout the community,” said Nunn.

Nunn, with approval from the Virgilina Women’s Club, has organized a wreath laying ceremony at the Virgilina Cemetery at noon on Dec. 15. The planning for the ceremony began in mid-October. 

Virgilina Cemetery is an official location for wreath laying events, and Nunn is its location chairman. 

According to Nunn, approximately 160 veterans are buried in the cemetery, and each one will receive a wreath, provided by donations, during the event. 

In addition to laying wreaths, a history of the ceremony will be shared, and the names of the veterans will be read.

“I think it will absolutely be another great occasion for the community to honor our local veterans during the holiday season. I hope that this event will continue to grow throughout the future and that I will be able to create new memories and feelings not only for myself but maybe even make a difference in others as well,” said Nunn.

He hopes the ceremony will bring the citizens of Virgilina and nearby communities a sense of pride for the veterans’ service to the country, he added.

The Virgilina Cemetery holds a Memorial Day service each year, and Nunn’s family has always participated. 

When his father was a young boy, his parents took him and his siblings each year to honor family members who were buried there. The family continued the tradition with Nunn and his brother.

“We treasure that time as family that we take to honor those in death as they had honored us in life,” said Nunn. “I think that this is a great way to allow the entire community to participate in honoring the veterans in Virgilina Cemetery and let them share a taste of my own experiences. It has always meant a great deal to me, and I hope it means the same for the community.” 

The teen is very excited about the ceremony and how it may affect the community. However, he is still polishing the final schedule for the event.

“I think that it will affect it (the community) in a positive way and leave lasting marks on the community…This is a project I am passionate about and feel that it is our obligation to remember and honor the veterans in death for they gave and sacrificed so much for us in life,” Nunn concluded.

The wreath laying ceremony will be held at noon Saturday, Dec. 15, at Virgilina Cemetery. The public is invited to attend, and Nunn encourages all veterans to attend.

Nunn is the son of Mark and Libby Nunn of Virgilina.