U.S. Navy veteran Robert Brooks has been working with Wreaths Across America for the past eight years to honor local deceased veterans by placing wreaths on their headstones during each December. This year, much to the disappointment of Brooks and many other members of the Owensboro community, the wreaths were not purchased and the ceremony at Owensboro Memorial Gardens was cancelled.
“This virus has affected our community and the people,” Brooks said. “The enthusiasm at the time that I needed to make the decision was not there.”
While many people may not begin thinking about Christmas wreaths until the winter months, Brooks said he actually begins speaking with the regional Wreaths Across America coordinator in June. Around mid-September, he mails out letters to individuals and businesses that have participated in the past.
This year, the decision to cancel the wreath order was made around the middle of October.
Brooks and members of the Lt. Robert Moseley Chapter of the Kentucky Society of National Society Sons of the American Revolution (NSSAR) were responsible for laying 1,654 wreaths on veterans’ headstones last year throughout Daviess, Hancock, and McLean counties.
“That is more than one person can take care of,” Brooks said. “When we put them out at the cemetery we generally have people come help us. You just can’t do it without help.”
According to Brooks, the lack of participation in the program this year not only involves the concern of public gatherings but also a lack of financial resources due to the pandemic.
Lou Ann Bowersox, operations manager and family advisor for Owensboro Memorial Gardens, said Brooks has become a good friend of the cemetery over the years.
“There is just something about the respect for veterans, their sacrifice, and their service — it just runs through his veins, he just lives it,” said Bowersox. “He came to break the news to us that because of this difficult year there would not be the Wreaths Across America program. He really had a hard time talking about it.”
According to Silas Deane with the the Owensboro Civil Air Patrol (CAP) Squadron, CAP was still hoping to recognize the approximate 750 veterans at Resurrection Cemetery with wreaths this year. They have participated in Wreaths Across America for the past two years as a fundraiser for the organization.
Cliff Russell, the director at Resurrection Cemetery, confirmed that Resurrection will also not be holding a wreath-laying ceremony this year.
“Our plans have altered quite a bit this year,” Russell said. “We are not holding a service at all. Folks that have purchased or sponsored wreaths will have an hour of drive thru time and will be handed their wreath. That is the extent of our services, but we are looking forward to what we can do next year.”