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You can lay a wreath to honor a service member this holiday

Volunteers across the country will place wreaths to honor fallen and departed military service members
Justin Orr
Wreaths Across America
Volunteers across the country will place wreaths to honor fallen and departed military service members.

Volunteers will soon begin adorning headstones at cemeteries throughout the Tri-State with wreaths to honor fallen and departed military service members. The annual events are part of the national Wreaths Across America initiative.

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.

"Wreaths Across America does not 'decorate' headstones," the organization writes in a social media post. "On National Wreaths Across America Day, we honor veterans by placing live, balsam veterans’ wreaths on the headstones of our nation’s service members."

Jenna Osborn is coordinating the wreath-laying event at Spring Grove Cemetery.

"We (lay wreaths) in Section 21, where the majority of the Civil War graves are," Osborn says. "You can also sponsor a wreath, and if you know the location in the cemetery (where) that person is buried, you can do that grave-specific order and we will place that wreath at that veteran's grave."

She explains why participating each year is important to her.

"A lot of veterans are forgotten about once their families are either gone, or they moved out of the state or away from the grave, so they're not able to visit them and pay respects. My own brother is a veteran — so he will be joining us on December 17 — but it's just a way that we can thank them for their service and remember them still."

It costs $15 to sponsor a wreath. People may also volunteer to place the wreaths. Dozens of cemeteries across Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana are participating. You can search by location on the Wreaths Across America website.

National Wreaths Across America Day is Saturday, Dec. 17. Ceremonies begin at noon.

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.

The national organization estimates 2.4 million wreaths were placed in 2021 at 3,136 locations around the country.

Senior Editor and reporter at WVXU with more than 20 years experience in public radio; formerly news and public affairs producer with WMUB. Would really like to meet your dog.