SIDNEY — “I’m an American. Yes, I Am” is the theme for the 2017 Wreaths Across America campaign. Locally, the effort is being supported by the Shelby County Vets to D.C. Committee.
On Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017, volunteers across the United States will place a remembrance wreath on the graves of U.S. veterans. After the wreaths have been placed, the names of the veterans will be read.
In 2016, wreaths were placed on veterans’ graves in more than 1,200 locations in the United States. Ceremonies were also held at sea and at each national cemetery in a foreign country.
“Last year went well except for the ice storm on Dec. 17,” said Mike Bennett, committee chairman. “We placed 166 wreaths last year.” The majority of wreaths were placed at Graceland Cemetery in Sidney.
“We’ve already got some wreaths ordered for this year,” said Bennett. Wreaths can be ordered online at http://www.wreathsacrossamerica.org/.
“When you go onto the site,” said Bennett. “You click to ‘donate a wreath.’ The site accepts PayPal and credit cards. Then you click on the link for the map of the U.S. Type in Sidney or the cemetery’s name and it will take you to where we are.”
Bennett said the organization is participating in the “3 for 2” program.
“When we buy two wreaths for $30, we get a third one for free. Individual wreaths can be purchased for $15 each.
“The site allows you to say ‘in memory of …’ and we’ll take the free one and place it out there for them The person buying the wreath has to designate it for a specific person.”
On Dec. 16, said Bennett, people who have purchased a wreath can come to Graceland Cemetery to pick it up. They can also participate in the wreath laying ceremony at the cemetery.
“We’ll be monitoring the website and send them a reminder closer to the date of the ceremony,” said Bennett. “Also on the website, people can sign up to volunteer on Dec. 16 They provide their name and email address and we’ll contact with the details.”
Bennett said people can also send their donation for wreaths to the local organization. Checks should be made payable to Shelby County Vets to DC and sent to Vets to D.C., P.O. Box 403, Anna, OH 45302.
The group, said Bennett, is “looking strictly at Graceland Cemetery to decorate again this year. We have talked to someone about sponsoring the cemetery in their hometown.”
Bennett said the Wreaths Across America program is a great way to honor the Americans who served their country in military.
“We had the various military represented when we placed the memorials for each group last year,” said Bennett. “The Scouts were a big help. Even in the ice storm, they helped place the wreaths.
“It was neat that they got involved in this program,” he said.
The Vets to D.C. committee will focus on making sure the 50 gravestones at the flagpole at Graceland Cemetery have wreaths placed at each one.
“Everything else that is donated will be placed around the cemetery,” he said. “The volunteers will fan out and place them on the other gravestones. There are a lot of veterans buried in Graceland. We’re hoping to have more wreaths placed around the cemetery than we did last year.
“We really appreciated the help of the city of Sidney employees at the ceremony,” he said. “They did a nice job. They cleaned out a building so we could store the wreaths until the ceremony. They also cleaned off the ice for us after the storm hit.”
Bennett is hoping the program will continue to grow in Shelby County.
“I think it will grow this year again,” said Bennett. “This is a good testament to how well supported our veterans are in Shelby County.”
The Shelby County Vets to D.C. Committee had organized 11 trips to Washington, D.C., so veterans of World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War could see the memorials built in their honor. After the final trip, the group decided not to take any more trips to D.C., but would instead focus on different projects involving veterans in the county.
The goal of Wreaths Across America is to “Remember our fallen U.S. veterans. Honor those who serve. Teach your children the value of freedom.”
Reach the writer at 937-538-4822.