The Wreaths Across America ceremony decorates 560 graves at the Alton National Cemetery.
A unique and exceptional event paying special tribute to our nation’s veterans is coming up for the Alton area.
Wreaths Across America will lay 560 wreaths on the graves of veterans buried at the Alton National Cemetery. The ceremony will be held at 11 a.m. Dec. 13. The Alton National Cemetery is located next to the Alton City Cemetery at 600 Pearl St. in Alton.
Wreaths Across America is a national organization whose mission is to honor and remember our nation’s veterans and to teach others about the honor and sacrifice of our military personnel. The organization notes that in many homes across the country this Christmas, there is an empty seat for one who is serving or has made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of the nation. They point out the holiday event is a distinct opportunity to remember those who have fallen in service for our country.
Margaret Hopkins is the local location leader for the Alton event. She became involved with Wreaths Across America in 2007 after seeing a special broadcast about it on the television program “60 Minutes.” She says she was so moved by the beauty and significance of the event that she wanted to become involved.
Hopkins explains the special activities involved in the event.
“Twenty-seven veterans will participate in the wreath-laying, each attending one of 27 rows of graves at the cemetery,” she says. “Each veteran will be accompanied by a fourth-grade student from St. Mary’s Catholic school.”
The students hand the wreaths to the veterans and the veterans place the wreaths on the graves. The event is synchronized so that all 27 rows of graves are decorated at the same time.
Simultaneous ceremonies are held across the United States and the entire sequence of events laying all of the wreaths is completed within 30 minutes. Hopkins says it is hard to comprehend how moving the event is until you actually see it.
More than 100 volunteers participate in preparation for the ceremony, including students, veterans, ROTC members and others who pitch in to help. Volunteers work throughout the year making preparations and start at 7 a.m. on the day of the event getting everything ready for the day.
“So many groups do so many things to make this happen,” Hopkins says.
Five World War II veterans will be attending this year’s event as well as Korean and Vietnam War veterans. A POW/MIA veteran of World War II, Bob Ryan of Alton, will also be in attendance.
Fundraising is conducted throughout the year to purchase the wreaths. Hopkins says $30 purchases three wreaths. People can donate by sending a check to Wreaths Across America at P.O. Box 181, Alton, IL 62002 or by going to the organization’s website at www.wreathsacrossamerica.org.
This event is a special chance for area residents to honor the many veterans who have in the past and continue today to serve our nation. Hopkins encourages everyone to come out to see this one-of-a-kind event.