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JCSU Welcomes Wreaths Across America Exhibit


It is an experience you may remember forever. The Johnson C. Smith University community came out to honor military heroes as the Wreaths Across America Mobile Education Exhibit rolled through campus on the afternoon of Feb. 9, 2024.

The bus is bold, brimming with patriotism. It is a solemn and celebratory remembrance. Dr. Cheryl Curtis, director of Veterans and Military Affairs at JCSU, led the campus effort. She says, “you die two deaths. The day that you actually die and the last time someone says your name. Wreaths Across America not only allows faculty, staff, students and the community to remember the fallen, it also allows us the opportunity to never forget and never stop saying their names.” 

Curtis says the ritual helps the community preserve critical stories and fill in the blanks of American history. Through our words, American military heroes live on forever. 

For one full year, the Wreaths Across America Mobile Education Exhibit travels across the United States to encourage military appreciation and awareness. The mobile unit boasts an array of interactive exhibits, short films and shared stories. It is a military museum on wheels, educating visitors about the service and sacrifices of our nation’s heroes, including military heroes of color. 

Che Abdullah, founder of the Westside History Club, joined the group of volunteers at JCSU as one step in a larger mission. Abdullah’s group works to preserve history and name the fallen buried at the Cedar Grove Cemetery, a historic Black cemetery in West Charlotte, established circa 1880. Those buried there represent an array of Black leaders from religious leaders to military veterans, military heroes, he says, worthy of honor and reward. Abdullah aims to save, “this abandoned Black cemetery.” His group will use the research findings to support the groundbreaking work of the HBCU Consortium on Health, Equity and Data at JCSU.  

As a leader in the effort, Dr. Sabina Otienoburu shares her enthusiasm about the partnership, “that helps us highlight the importance of working together – HBCUs, community members and organizations – to highlight positive initiatives in the community.” She says the goal is “to improve Health Equity in our community.” She calls Wreaths Across America a noble partner.

The efforts of Wreaths Across America have been recognized on local and national news. The organization is recognized for placing more than 2.7 million veterans’ wreaths at more than 3,700 locations in the United States and around the world. This generally occurs on National Wreaths Across America Day. The WAA Mobile Education Exhibit allows this work to spill out across the calendar year. 

This year, the partnership sweeps broadly with local impact cutting deep. According to Curtis, it’s about helping Americans see with fresh eyes. She says the Wreaths Across America Exhibit helps us all recognize the daily efforts and giant sacrifices our veterans and active duty service members make when the rest of the world is sleeping.  

Karen Worcester, the executive director of Wreaths Across America, agrees. She sees the mobile unit as a way “to remember the fallen, honor those who have served and their families and teach the next generation the value of freedom. Through our partnership with the United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration, the Exhibit also serves as an official ‘Welcome Home’ location for our nation’s Vietnam Veterans.”

When you see the Wreaths Across America Mobile Education Exhibit rolling through town or at a campus near you, organizers encourage action: stop, take a tour, ask questions and pay tribute.   
You can sponsor a veteran’s wreath anytime to support the local WAA program at Cedar Grove Cemetery for $17 at Each sponsorship goes toward a live, balsam wreath that will be placed on the headstone of an American hero.

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