Wreaths Across America will once again be held at the Missouri Veteran’s Home (MVH) in St. James on Saturday, December 14. The MVH, along with the Patriot Guard Riders, the Christian Motorcycle Association, Veterans Home employees, Missouri Veterans Commission, U.S. Army members from Fort Leonard Wood, and other volunteers will hold a special ceremony followed the laying wreaths on each headstone in the cemetery.
The ceremony will begin at 1 p.m. to honor those who are buried in the cemetery and in veterans cemeteries across the country. The ceremony will include presentation of the colors, a 21-gun salute, and the playing of “Taps,” along with words from guest speaker Kellis Richardson. Participants will then move outside where they will lay a wreath at each headstone. The community is invited to participate.
Each of the 761 headstones will receive a wreath in honor of the sacrifices those service members buried there made. The program is a part of the Missouri Veteran Commissions “Wreaths Across America” program, which is used to lay holiday wreaths in veterans cemeteries in the United States.
Each year, a group of volunteers, organized this year by Bruce Daniels and Clay McKinnon, work to raise money to purchase wreaths for the ceremony. This year, fundraising efforts provided enough funding for 824 wreaths, enough for each gravestone in the cemetery, plus additional wreaths for other small veteran headstones in cemeteries throughout the area.
Part of National Wreaths Across America Day, St. James will be one of more than 1,200 locations participating in this year’s day of remembrance. The goal of the day is to place a live, balsam fir wreath at the headstone of every veteran buried in a veterans cemetery. Wreaths Across America Day is a free, non-political, community event open to all people and recognizes and remembers the nation’s fallen and to honor their service. This year there will be nearly 2,000 locations placing wreaths with more than two million volunteers coming together to lay them.
Anyone wanting to join in the wreath-laying event is invited to participate and can join at the veterans home for the ceremony. For more information, contact Daniels at 573-263-8800 or McKinnon at 573-263-0976.
Wreaths Across America began when Morill Worcester, owner of the Worcester Wreath Company of Harrington, Maine won a trip to Washington, D.C. when he was 12 years old and was moved by his visit to the Arlington National Cemetery. In 1992 Worcester Wreath had a surplus of wreaths nearing Christmastime, so he decided to donate the extra wreaths to the cemetery in one of the older sections.
Volunteers quickly joined the effort over the years as did other organizations joined in their respective states. Worcester Wreath sends seven wreaths to every state, one for each branch of military and for POW and MIAs. By 2008, more than 300 locations held wreath-laying ceremonies in every state, Puerto Rico, and 24 overseas cemeteries.
In 2014, Wreaths Across America laid over 700,000 memorial wreaths at 1,000 locations in the United States and other cemeteries including at the Pearl Harbor Memorial and others. The program was created to expand the wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.
Volunteers in each state have taken the mission set forth by Worchester to raise money to provide additional wreaths to the many cemeteries around the nation. Residents are encouraged to join this year’s effort.
Wreaths Across America is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded to continue and expand the annual wreath-laying ceremony. The organization’s mission— “Remember, Honor, Teach—is carried out in part each year by coordinating wreath-laying ceremonies in all 50 states and beyond.
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