On Saturday, Dec. 15, at noon (EST), thousands of wreaths will be placed on the headstones of veterans’ gravesites over 1,400 cemeteries across the United States in coordination with the national wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery. At 11 a.m. (CST), Owensboro will hold its wreath-laying ceremony at Owensboro Memorial Gardens’ Field of Honor.
According to Wreaths Across America’s website, National Wreaths Across America Day was created to remember fallen U.S. veterans, honor those who serve, and teach children the value of freedom.
“This is our fifth year,” said U.S. Navy veteran and Owensboro Location Coordinator Robert Brooks. “Each year we’ve progressed with more [wreaths]. We should receive in excess of 500 this year.”
Brooks is responsible for placing the orders for the hundreds of wreaths each year, while the Lt. Robert Moseley Chapter of the Kentucky Society of National Sons of the American Revolution coordinates the wreath-laying ceremony at Owensboro Memorial Gardens’ Field of Honor.
The first year Brooks laid the wreaths on the headstones at Memorial Gardens, he said the group noticed that the headstones were “mounted flush with the ground” so the wreaths did not show up when you backed away from them. The wreaths are now attached to 2-foot sticks so that they hang slightly off of the ground.
Brooks said there is a local family that has inspired a new practice for the way they place wreaths.
“You place a wreath on a veteran’s grave, then back away and read aloud what is on their headstone,” Brooks said. “We lose an individual twice — once when they are buried and once when they are never read aloud.”
The wreaths will be shipped out of Maine the week prior to the wreath-laying ceremony, causing Brooks to feel “tied to the phone” that Wednesday through Friday, as “every trucking company you can imagine” delivers wreaths all over the country for free.
Each wreath created for the event is composed of much more than pine needles in a circular shape. Each of the 10 balsam bouquets represents a virtue in tribute to each veteran’s service and sacrifice.
The 10 virtues are: faith, love, strength, honesty, humility, ambitions, optimism, concern pride and hopes and dreams. The evergreens are a symbol of longevity and endurance with the pure simplicity of a forest scent created into an eternal circular shape adorned with a red bow to demonstrate great sacrifice.
Brooks and the others could not place the wreaths without the help of Chairman of Glenn Family Services, Allan Harl. Harl has been placing American flags on veterans’ gravesites for Memorial Day each year since 1972. Harl said he places between 1,200-1,300 flags each year.
“I made a list of all the veterans and made a map of all the veterans’ gravesites,” Harl said. “I’m not a veteran, but I felt like it was part of my duty with the cemetery.”
Brooks said they will take wreath orders for Daviess, Hancock, Ohio and McLean Counties and order extras for those that were unaware they were available, ensuring they are all placed by the close of business on Monday, Dec. 17.
“If an individual wants to purchase a wreath and place it themselves,” Brooks said, “we will make that wreath available to them.”
The one individual that sticks with Brooks year after year, he described as an elderly woman that wishes to remain anonymous. Brooks said she sends enough cash each year to purchase 10 wreaths for the cemetery at Woodward Valley Baptist Church towards Livermore and “marks every veteran’s grave in that cemetery.”
“Our desire is to mark every veteran’s grave in our area,” Brooks said. “If you don’t have a goal set, you can’t achieve it.”
To reserve a wreath please contact Robert Brooks at 270-298-3962 or 270-925-1496 by December 3rd. Cost is $15 per wreath. You may also visit Owensboro Memorial Gardens Wreaths Across America page here. To learn more information or access classroom activities about Wreaths Across America click here.