GRAFTON, W.Va. – Saturday was National Wreaths Across America Day, which honors America’s fallen heroes around the country with annual wreath laying ceremonies.
Thousands of volunteers gathered in the cold winter weather at the West Virginia National Cemetery in Grafton to help place wreaths on headstones.
The ceremony started by placing wreaths for each branch of service, honoring the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Marines, U.S. Navy, U.S. Space Force and for the Prisoner of War and Missing in Action soldiers.
Wreaths Across America placed 2.7 million wreaths on headstones across the county, and 6,296 wreaths were laid in the W.Va. National Cemetery in Grafton.
“We’re honored to have all of these volunteers come out here and help us, and to see a lot of young kids come out here and do this for veterans and the heroes laid in here, that means a lot. Because that’s what it is about, Remember, Honor, Teach, we want to teach the young ones to carry on the legacy when we are all gone” said Cliff Vangilder, W.Va. National Cemetery coordinator.
Volunteers then were asked, when placing a wreath on a headstone, to say the veterans name out loud, so the veterans were not forgotten.
Vangilder said, “veterans are truly not gone until somebody doesn’t say their name again, so as long as we keep saying their name, their legacy lives on forever.”
A wreath is comprised of ten balsam bouquets, which represents ten special qualities that each veteran represents.
- Their belief in the greater good.
- Their love for each other.
- Their strength, work ethic, and character.
- Their honesty and integrity.
- Their humility, selflessness and modesty.
- Their ambitions and aspirations.
- Their optimism for America.
- Their concern for the future.
- Their pride in their duties.
- Their hopes and dreams that didn’t always come true, but left them with no regrets.
Additionally, a wreath has a red bow for great sacrifice, is evergreen for longevity and endurance, contains a forest scent for purity and simplicity and lastly, is circular to represent eternity.
These events wouldn’t be possible without volunteers and donations. On January 21, 2023, the W.Va. National Cemetery is asking for volunteers to help during National Wreath Cleanup Day.
“We need you to come back now to help clean them up; that’s a hard job. They are frozen to the ground, they went through the elements of winter. We need people to come out on Jan. 21 to help us clean up as well,” said Vangilder.
If you would like to sponsor a wreath for next year, you can find more information here.
“We can’t do none of this without our sponsors, our volunteers. It’s a group effort, it takes everybody to help and to do this. It’s a big task to raise enough money to cover this cemetery alone that we would never reach without every donation we got,” said Jeff Bolyard, assistant cemetery coordinator.
To learn more about the West Virginia National Cemetery, click here.