Wreaths Across America to honor veterans’ resting placesWritten by Paige Shermis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
The gesture is simple but poignant: to lay wreaths on the snow-covered graves of veterans.
This is the mission of Wreaths Across America, a nationwide nonprofit that will be responsible for laying donated wreaths on veterans’ graves Dec. 14, this year’s National Wreaths Across America Day.
“We have a lot of veterans who have passed on … and they’ve just been totally forgotten. So we’ve made it our mission that they will not be forgotten. Each time the holiday season rolls around, we try to cover as many veterans’ graves as we can, show that they have not been forgotten,” said Wayne Merritt, project officer and veterans outreach service director at Wreaths Across America.
The program was started in 1992 by wreath shop owner Morrill Worcester, who donated wreaths to be placed in the older sections of Arlington National Cemetery.
This will be the first year that Wreaths Across America will distribute wreaths at Toledo Memorial Park in Sylvania.
Mel Harbaugh, an Air Force veteran who served from 1966-70, is Sylvania’s location leader for Wreaths Across America.
“Our goal is to [place] the 1,400 wreaths donated. They have a special section donated to veterans who couldn’t pay for their own graves. They have approximately 12,600-plus veterans in the cemetery,” Harbaugh said.
A car show in August helped raise money for the wreaths. If extra money is collected, volunteers will begin to place wreaths on other veterans’ graves in the cemetery.
In addition to placing wreaths on graves in Toledo Memorial Park, Harbaugh is offering to honor grave-specific requests for veterans buried within city limits but not at Toledo Memorial Park. If anyone has a grave-specific request, he or she can call Harbaugh at (419) 346-9192.
Harbaugh’s team of volunteers for Wreaths Across America Day will be comprised of Boy Scouts and individuals from other organizations around town, he said.
To commemorate the day, there will be a ceremony at noon Dec. 14 at the cemetery.
Harbaugh said he eventually hopes to expand Wreaths Across America to all area cemeteries. He is the one responsible for partnering with the cemetery and bringing the charity there.
“I’ve gone to Sandusky, to veterans’ homes and hospital cemeteries for the past four years. I just thought it would be nice to do. We [were] not doing it in Toledo, and I thought it would be a good thing to do,” Harbaugh said.
Merritt said people who want to help with Wreaths Across America can volunteer to place wreaths on graves in December, or participate in fundraising to purchase more wreaths for their local cemetery.
Harbaugh said that the nonprofit is not only reverent to veterans, but important to the public.
“It teaches the younger people to honor our veterans,” he said.
For more information, visit wreathsacrossamerica.org.
Tags: an Air Force veteran, Arlington National Cemetery, Mel Harbaugh, National Wreaths Across America Day, project officer and veterans outreach service director at Wreaths Across America, Toledo Memorial Park in Sylvania, Wayne Merritt, wreath shop owner Morrill Worcester