Tim Gabel, ’91: A Mission to Remember, Honor and Teach
January 30, 2014 by Lisa McMahon, M.A.'09
Seven years ago, Tim Gabel, ’91, joined a friend on a Saturday morning in December to lay wreaths on the tombstones of veterans buried at Arlington National Cemetery. The experience was so moving for him that he continued to go each year. For the past three years, he has taken a group of Niagara alumni with him to share in this poignant opportunity to express appreciation for those who lost their lives fighting for our freedom.
Each year, Wreaths Across America brings thousands of volunteers to cemeteries across the country, Puerto Rico, and overseas to remember the fallen, honor those who serve, and teach our children about the cost of freedom by placing wreaths on the graves of veterans at more than 800 cemeteries.
“It was such an intense morning,” Tim says of that day in 2007. “You think you’re just going to put a wreath on (a tombstone) and it turns out that it’s an emotional roller coaster.”
When Tim took leadership of the Washington, D.C., alumni chapter in 2011, after the death of longtime chapter leader Paul McCarthy, ’60, one of the first things he did was organize a group to participate in the Wreaths event.
“I thought it was perfect, with Niagara’s military background,” he says.
That first year, only a handful of alumni and their friends and family attended, but they represented a span of graduating years from the 1950s to the 2000s. This year, 20 alumni participated with 20 of their friends and family. It was one of the largest groups from one school to participate at Arlington. In addition, many of those who could not attend made donations to purchase wreaths.
Following the wreath-laying ceremony, the Niagara alumni gathered at a local restaurant to reflect on the events of that morning and to exchange memories of their alma mater.
“It’s an event that brings people together,” Tim says, noting that other NU alumni chapters participated this year. He encourages chapters that might be interested in joining the effort this upcoming December to “just go out and do it, even if it’s not an organized effort.” As the Wreaths organization notes, you’ll come with a mission, but you’ll leave with a memory.
For more information about Wreaths Across America, visit WreathsAcrossAmerica.org.