Help sought for wreaths on veterans’ graves - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Help sought for wreaths on veterans’ graves

October 29th, 2021 SanTan Sun News
Help sought for wreaths on veterans’ graves
Neighbors
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Santan Sun News

The tradition started in 1992 in Maine when a family that owned a tree farm had a surplus of Christmas wreaths and donated the extras to the Arlington National Cemetery to put on its graves.

And over the years, that thoughtful act blossomed into a nationwide movement in which anyone can honor deceased veterans by contributing to local organizations that place wreaths on their graves.

This year, the Exchange Club of Chandler and its counterpart in Ahwatukee are working with Valley of the Sun Mortuary and Cemetery in Chandler for the sixth annual Chandler Wreaths Across America Day event on Dec. 18.

Over time, the event has drawn other organizations, including Chandler Elks Lodge #2429 and the Ahwatukee-based Exchange Club of Phoenix.

Their goal is to raise enough money to place wreaths on approximately 2,800 veterans’ graves at Valley of the Sun Cemetery.

Last year, approximately 1,800 wreaths were sponsored and organizer Mark Whitaker said, “We will need help from the community to achieve the goal of sponsoring 2,800 wreaths.”

According to the U.S. Department of Defense, the Maine family that started this tradition got an eager reception to their proposal.

“Several volunteers stepped up to help, including veterans from American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars posts and a truck company owner who transported the wreaths to Arlington, Virginia, where a small ceremony was held at the cemetery’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier,” according to department.

This remained a small yearly tradition for nearly 15 years until a photo taken at the 2005 ceremony went viral.

“Almost immediately, thousands of people wanted to know how to help or how they could begin a similar tradition in their states,” the Defense Department said.

By 2008, it had become a tradition at dozens of cemeteries across the country and has continued to grow, with more than 2.2 million graves across the country now decorated with a wreath at more than 2,100 cemeteries.

Chandler’s annual event consists of laying out the wreaths and a memorial ceremony. Volunteers will begin gathering around 8 a.m. for light refreshments and the laying of the wreaths will begin at 9 a.m., Whitaker said.

“Each wreath symbolizes the commitment to remember and honor our nation’s veterans and teach our children about freedom and the sacrifice required to maintain our freedom,” Whitaker said.

There will be an educational activity for children to help them learn about veterans.

“As wreaths are laid, we ask that the volunteers respectfully remember the veteran by saying the veteran’s name aloud,” Whitaker said.

The formal ceremony will start at 10 a.m. and will be streamed on Facebook Live on the Valley of the Sun Cemetery, Chandler Elks, and the Exchange Clubs of Chandler and Phoenix Facebook pages.

Valley of the Sun Mortuary and Cemetery has been serving Chandler and the East Valley since 1963.

Between now and Nov. 30, people can sponsor a wreath for $15. They can also sponsor a family pack of four wreaths for $60. Small business sponsorships of $150 support  10 wreaths.

To make a donation: reathsacrossamerica.org/AZ0084P.

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