Volunteers will lay wreaths honoring service members at Dayton National Cemetery on Saturday
Volunteers will spread across Dayton National Cemetery Saturday, their arms laden with wreaths to honor fallen and departed military service members. The annual event is part of the national Wreaths Across America initiative.
"It fluctuates year to year - we usually average about 1,500 to 2,000 wreaths," reports Justin MacKellar, site coordinator. "It takes roughly about an hour or hour-and-a-half depending on how many volunteers we have. We usually have about 200 people that show up for the ceremony."
The event is an expansion of the annual wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C. The tradition began in 1992 with a goal of placing a wreath on every veteran's grave at Arlington. It's since grown to include more than 2,500 locations.
Dayton National Cemetery - one of just five national Department of Veterans Affairs' cemeteries in Ohio - was one of the first sites to pilot expanding the wreath program outside Arlington.
"Dayton National is one of the original seven cemeteries that was a test case across the whole U.S. for this program," MacKellar says. "We've had a very rich history of being a part of the Wreaths program and we hope to continue this for many years to come."
Saturday's wreath-laying begins with a procession at around 11:45 a.m. to the Dayton Soldiers' Monument in the cemetery followed by a noon-time ceremony that includes a moment of silence, color guard, National Anthem and the Wreaths Across America ceremony itself, which will have a formal wreath-laying in memory and honor of each branch of the military, POWs and Blue and Gold Star families.
Local agencies and charities recruit people to sponsor the wreaths in Dayton. The wreaths will remain in place until Jan. 22, 2022. MacKellar says the group plans to live stream the ceremony this year on its Facebook page.