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Appalachia TSD Green Belt Leads Vet Memorial

Eleven-year- old Dehlia Elbe, a green belt at Appalachia Tang Soo Do, walked silently
and solemnly alongside 83-year- old, retired Col. Roger Donlon, the first man decorated
with the Congressional Medal of Honor in the Vietnam War. Together, at Arlington
National Cemetery, on December 16, they carried a veterans’ remembrance wreath
toward the Tomb of The Unknown Solider. At noon, watched by a crowd of several
hundred, they laid the wreath in honor of our all of our fallen veterans, and signaled the
official start of similar wreath-laying ceremonies across the globe.

The Arlington ceremony was the centerpiece of Wreaths Across America’s annual
commemoration of those who have given their lives in service to their country. Since
1992, the non-profit group has organized wreath-laying ceremonies at veterans’ graves
across the U.S. and overseas. More than 1.5 million wreaths were laid this past
December, with the event highlighted by the Arlington observance, and Wreaths Across
America (WAA) selected Appalachia’s Dehlia, along with two other young people, to
represent the organization, and in many ways, the nation.

For Dehlia, it was a long road, figuratively and literally, from Philipsburg, PA, home of
Appalachia TSD, to Washington, DC, a road paved in part by her father, Ken, and
mother, Tina, and supported by her younger brother, Kenny, Jr., also an Appalachian
TSD green belt. Ken is a driver for Tysons Foods, which has been an active supporter
of WAA for many years. Dehlia is a fifth-grader at St. Francis School in Clearfield, PA,
and her mom is a kindergarten teacher there. The school was looking to extend its
Veteran’s Day observance and Tina suggested a fund-raiser for WAA. The community
had only been able to supply 15 – 20 wreaths for the veterans’ grave sites at nearby
Beulah Cemetery, so with the school’s enthusiastic backing, Dehlia and her classmates
began selling commemorative t-shirts, ultimately generating enough money to place a
wreath on all 165 veteran’s graves at Beulah, with funds left over to extend the
observation to other local cemeteries next year.

Ken was one of hundreds of truckers who had volunteered to transport the WAA
wreaths from Columbia, Maine, where they are made, to grave sites across the country,
and he took Dehlia there to help and to talk about the St. Francis contribution. They
were in Maine for a week, cooking for the truckers while the thousands of wreaths were
loaded onto the big-rigs. They also had the honor of cooking a special dinner for Gold
Star mothers and families, and following Dehlia’s description of the St. Francis effort
and a t-shirt presentation to the group, the founders of WAA – Morrill and Karen
Worcester – announced that she would be among the select few working with the honor
guard at the Arlington observance.

Karen later explained, “When we learned of her efforts on behalf of Wreaths Across
America and our veterans, we were so moved. Teaching our younger generations so
they can pass on these lessons of gratitude and respect is what Wreaths Across
America is all about."

For her part, Dehlia said she couldn’t believe it. “It’s like, wow. Is this really

But it was happening, and a long line of tractor-trailers carrying tens of thousands of
wreaths soon left Maine and spread out across the country. The Elbe’s headed to
Washington where more than 250,000 wreaths were laid on individual grave sites at
Arlington alone.

The WAA’s goals, Ken explained, were to “remember, honor and teach;” to “remember
and honor those who served and still serve,” and to always “remember the value of
freedom and that freedom is not free.” Dehlia, recalling a key WAA idea, added, “they
were the freedom fighters and we must be the freedom caretakers.”

Appalachia Studio Head, Roy Donaldson, Sam Dan and Army veteran, echoed the
sentiment. “As a veteran myself, I know people who gave their lives, and I think it’s
important that every generation remember those sacrifices. The history of Tang Soo Do
and a philosophy stressed by our studio’s founder, Master Michael White, is one of
service and tradition, and that’s what Ken and Tina are teaching Dehlia and Kenny.
They are building a family culture of service and tradition, and I’m honored that they are
making Appalachia a part of that.”

Each truck that took part in the event carried its own hood-mounted veteran’s wreath,
and the wreath that crowned Kenny’s truck was brought back to Appalachia TSD and
presented to Master Scott Merrill, an Air Force veteran, who then laid the wreath on the
grave of his brother, Marine Lance Corporal William Merrill, who was killed in action in
Vietnam in 1969. “I can’t even begin to describe what an honors this is, and what it
means to me and my family,” said Master Merrill.

When asked about the connection between her experience at Arlington Cemetery and
her Tang Soo Do training, Dehlia talked about respect and service and leadership. We
respect those who serve our country as we respect our parents, elders and teachers,
she explained; we hope to serve as they serve, and strive to become leaders.

And yes, Dehlia, Ken, and Tina will be helping WAA again next year, although with a
small (about 4-1/2 feet) change. This time, Dehlia’s younger brother, 10-year- old Kenny,
Jr., will be in the cab headed for Columbia, Maine, in December.

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The World Tang Soo Do Association
2436 Hanford Road
Burlington, NC 27215
Phone: (336)-223-0056 or (215)-468-2121
fax: 215-336-2121

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