At cemeteries across the country, volunteers, veterans and their families laid wreaths Saturday morning, as part of the Wreaths Across America movement.
Organizations like the Daughters of the American Revolution, or DAR, Veterans of Foreign Wars and Civil Air Patrol placed donated wreaths at more than 1,400 locations across the country, decorating the graves of veterans ranging from the Revolutionary War to current conflicts.
Brownhelm Cemetery, Vermilion
The scene played out at Brownhelm Cemetery in Vermilion, too, with the 5-year-old Firelands Chapter of the DAR placing 99 wreaths on the graves. The group also visited Rugby Cemetery and Maple Grove cemetery in Erie County. Organized by treasurer Susan Kishman, the event has grown steadily over the years.
Morrill Worcester started Wreaths Across America in 1992. Owner of the Worcester Wreath Co. in Harrington, Maine, he had a surplus of wreaths near the end of the holiday season. Remembering a trip he took as a child to Arlington National Cemetery, Worcester donated the wreaths to an older part of the cemetery, with volunteers placing them on individual graves and a ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, according to the nonprofit’s website. Wreaths Across America became a national event in 2005, and has grown in the years since with chapters of the Civil Air Patrol, DAR, Boy Scouts of America and veterans organizations getting involved. Local groups sign up to lay wreaths at cemeteries in their area.
DAR members were joined by the 4-H club of Brownhelm and a group from Courtland who brought an extra
18 wreaths on top of those the Firelands chapter purchased this year. Each wreath is $15.
Kishman has a special connection with the ceremony, laying a wreath on her father’s grave at Brownhelm every year. Her dad, Stanley Porter, served in the Navy and patrolled the North Atlantic during World War II, she said.
“I thanked him today, and it was nice, it was touching,” she said. “You feel like you do a good thing; I feel real good today.”
Many of the graves have a marker or shield signifying what branch or conflict the person buried there served in. Members laid out seven separate wreaths, with a flag for each branch of the service. When a wreath is placed on a headstone, Kishman said, the veteran’s name is read aloud.
“It’s the last time they hear their name and that’s like a ritual that they want us to do,” she said. “And it’s because of them that our country is free and everything.”
St. Mary’s Catholic Cemetery, Elyria
Cub Scout Pack 133 laid wreaths at St. Mary’s Catholic Cemetery this year. St. Mary’s is one of the oldest cemeteries in the city, dating to 1857 and is home to more than 1,200 veterans from the Civil War to Operation Iraqi Freedom, according to a news release from the pack.
The pack, with help from American Legion Post 12 of Elyria, sponsored 315 wreaths to be placed throughout the cemetery this year, the pack’s committee chairman Marty Rowe said. About 45 of the pack’s kids participated in the ceremony, with fifth-graders acting as honor guard — carrying flags and laying special wreaths for each branch of the military.
“It was a very moving ceremony,” Rowe said. “All of the parents, everyone was very impressed, impressed with the ceremony itself and the reverence and the respect of all the Scouts.”
Before Saturday’s ceremony, the Scouts have been working to mark all of the veterans’ graves in the cemetery with flags, Rowe said. Their work will help update the cemetery’s historical records.
This is the second year Pack 133 has participated in Wreaths Across America, prompted by coordinator David Francway, a National Guard veteran and sergeant with the Ohio Highway Patrol. As one of the den leaders, Rowe said Francway took the project on, and his goal is to lay a wreath at every veteran’s headstone in St. Mary’s cemetery.
Last year, the group laid more than 60 wreaths at Brookdale Cemetery in Elyria, in partnership with the Lorain Civil Air Patrol. There are more than 200 veterans buried in that cemetery.
A key tenet in scouting, Rowe said the project’s goal is to teach the children in his pack values and citizenship.
“I was very proud of all the boys and girls — we have boys and girls in our pack — to see what we taught them kind of in practice,” Rowe said.
Donations for wreaths can be made year-round on the Wreaths Across America website and are sorted by specific cemetery. The Firelands DAR Chapter does events with veterans organizations throughout the year as well. For more information, visit firelands dar.wordpress.com.