A large crowd of people of all ages braved chilly temperatures to help decorate more than 1,100 wreaths on the graves of veterans in Middletown.
Led by the Middletown squadron of the Civil Air Patrol, more than 300 people came to participate in the fifth annual Wreaths Across America effort at Woodside Cemetery. Veterans and volunteers and youth groups from the area placed more than 1,100 holiday wreaths on the graves of those who defended our nation and participated in a special remembrance ceremony.
Maj. Richard King of the Civil Air Patrol’s Middletown Squadron said his goal is to have enough wreaths donated to cover all of the more than 5,000 graves of veterans at Woodside Cemetery.
He said in the first year, the goal was to place a wreath on all of the crosses in one of the veterans sections. King said the effort started small with only 65 wreaths donated but were able to get one section of 165 graves decorated in the third year with a handful of CAP members and volunteers.
Saturday’s ceremony featured John Hart of Start Skydiving, the Middletown Police Department Honor Guard, the Butler County Sheriff’s Office Bagpipers, the Fast Traxx Skydiving Team, the Ohio Patriot Guard and local musician Paul Thompson.
Many area youth groups — including American Heritage Girls, Trail Life Boys and the Boy Scouts of America — helped make this event possible, according to organizers. A Second Mile Award will also be presented Saturday to the American Heritage Girls of Miamitown, who obtained 479 sponsors for wreaths.
Each December the mission of wreath-laying ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery and 1,200 other locations in the nation, at sea and abroad is to remember, honor and teach, according to the Wreaths Across America national office in Columbia, Maine.
Each live, balsam remembrance wreath is a gift of respect and appreciation, donated by a private citizen or organization and placed on the graves by volunteers as a small gesture of gratitude for the freedoms Americans enjoy.
According to its website, the special remembrance started in 1992, a wreath-maker from Maine had 5,000 extra wreaths. Rather than letting them go to waste, he gave the wreaths as a gift of thanks for the service and sacrifice made by our nation’s military so he could live freely to work and raise his family.
This year, the organization was placing more than 1.56 million wreaths at 1,422 participating cemeteries across the nation.
For more information about sponsoring a wreath, visit the Wreaths Across America website, http://www.wreathsacrossamerica.org.