FAIRMONT, W.Va. – The Christmas season may be over, but Marion County is still using the festive time to honor active and retired veterans.
On the second floor of the Marion County Courthouse, three Christmas trees stand tall, brightly lit and covered with hand-crafted ornaments honoring those who served our country.
It’s a way to give recognition to those who may have slipped the community’s mind when celebrating the holidays.
“Sometimes, in the midst of honoring other people and doing the charity work, we forget about the veterans and what they have done and what they have brought to America for us, so it becomes a time we can recognize them as well,” said Reverend D.D Meighen, and volunteer with the tradition.
The memorial was started by Kip Price, Judy Wilson and the Marion County Commission in 2016. The idea originated by Governor Tomblin’s Veterans Christmas Tree in 2015.
It’s grown over the years from one Christmas tree to three, and now honors 206 veterans each with an individualized ornament.
“The community that’s been able to come out has loved it and admired it,” Meighen said.
“My father was a veteran, and my brother was a veteran, and I do it in memory of them,” Maree Reynolds, a volunteer with the Veterans tree tradition said.
Reynolds hand-makes ornaments for those who send in pictures and compiles a book of all those who are featured on the trees.
“The book is about 87 pages … that has the veterans in it along with their rank, their name, what branch of service they were in, what wars they were in and the hometowns that they were from,” Reynolds said.
She also makes a second set of ornaments for families to put on their personal trees.
“I do it because it’s a great thing to give back to our community because a lot of people don’t know that these trees even exist on the second floor,” she said.
It’s a group effort to keep the tradition alive but one that’s important to those involved.
“As far as I know, this is the only county commission in the state of West Virginia that’s honoring their veterans in such a way … so we hope that this will be an incentive for other agencies, counties that may not be doing anything at Christmas to perhaps think about this as a stimulus to honor their veterans.”
Next to the trees is a video that runs through the pictures and names of the veterans that Meighen put together.
“As long as we can do it, it will be done,” Meighen said. “If we have to add a fourth Christmas tree, we will do that as well.”
The three oldest Veterans featured on the trees are 100-year-old Benjamin Portario, 98-year-old Asa Davison and 95-year-old Paul McCue.
The trees can be found on the second floor of the Marion County Courthouse Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The tentative last day for the trees is Friday, Jan. 7.