Volunteers are still needed to help honor local veterans through the Wreaths Across America program later this week. On Saturday, Dec. 17, around 1,400 wreaths will be placed by volunteers at the graves of local veterans in the Jackson City Cemetery and Russell Heights Cemetery.
The John Guild Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) brought the program to Jackson for the first time last year. The organization has continued fundraising since last December to continue the project this year.
Pam Johnson, who served as the Wreaths Across America Chair for John Guild DAR, said the organization had learned a lot from its first year of selling wreaths but still had some challenges during their second year.
“One of the reason we felt like it was very challenging this year was because of the economic situation,” Johnson said. “With the cost of everything going up, we feel like we didn’t get some of our early donations.”
Sponsorships for each wreath cost $15, with the DAR receiving donations from individuals, civic organizations and local businesses. Johnson said they were able to meet their goal this fall and begin fundraising for next year’s event.
“We have a little more funds collected than we needed to purchase all of our wreaths this year,” Johnson said. “Those funds will go towards purchasing next year’s wreaths.”
While volunteers could sign up online at wreaths-acrossamerica.org, Johnson said there is still time to volunteer without registering. “Volunteers don’t need to sign up, they just need to come,” she said, adding that the event will be held rain or shine.
Johnson especially encourages families to come out on Saturday. “Part of the goal for Wreaths Across America is to teach,” she said. “We want to make sure the next generations learn about the sacrifice of the veterans and the people who are buried in our cemeteries.”
Another goal of the program is to make sure all veterans are remembered, even if they no longer have family in the Jackson community.
“Many of the individuals, especially in the city cemetery, may not have family around anymore who are willing or able to provide any kind of recognition or place a wreath at their grave,” Johnson said. “This program allows us as a community to make sure they are remembered.”
The wreath laying at both cemeteries will follow a short ceremony at 11 a.m. at the entrance to the city cemetery on South High Street. The ceremony will coincide with around 3,400 Wreaths Across America ceremonies held across the United States including at Arlington National Cemetery.
During the 20-minute program, local veterans will place ceremonial wreaths symbolizing each branch of the U.S. military. An additional wreath will be placed on an empty chair to honor veterans who were missing in action or prisoners of war.
Taps will be played at both cemeteries as the ceremony ends to mark the beginning of the wreath laying. Volunteers are asked to pause at each veteran’s grave and say their name before laying the wreath at the base of the gravestone.
Johnson said planning has already begun for next year’s event and other local organizations are welcome to join in – either by sponsoring Wreaths Across America in surrounding cemeteries or by helping the DAR sell wreaths for the two Jackson cemeteries.
“We always intended that we would not necessarily be the sole organization in the area to help sell wreaths for the cemetery,” Johnson said. “We have done it the last couple years to start, but we are encouraging some other nonprofit organizations to come on board and help sell wreaths.”
Wreaths Across America has continued to grow nationally, with more than 2.4 million wreaths being placed at veteran’s graves in 2021.