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Wreaths for our fallen

How one nonprofit organization is showing love for fallen vets

The annual Wreaths Across America returns to honor local vets that made the ultimate sacrifice. Photo courtesy Facebook

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The holiday season is fast approaching; people gather around tables and trees with loved ones to share appreciation and give thanks, as well as to honor and remember those who are no longer with us. National Wreaths Across America Day helps combat this sadness by allowing individuals to celebrate and pay homage to the fallen veterans of this country.

On Dec. 17, the nonprofit organization Wreaths Across America (WAA) will conduct over 1,100 wreath-laying ceremonies in cemeteries throughout all 50 states and even abroad. Over 20 cemeteries in Washington state are participating, including the Camp Lewis Cemetery on JBLM, which is nearly 100 years old. Each cemetery works with volunteers to raise money for the wreaths that are placed on the stones of beloved veterans.

Eighty-six cents of every dollar donated to the worthy cause goes towards sponsorships, shipping costs and fundraising group paybacks, while the remaining 14 cents is used for wages for the org's eight employees, per the WAA website. This mathematical breakdown illustrates the commitment to the cause, and ensures donations are used for their intended purpose.

Established in 2007, WAA strives to incorporate three main objectives into their organization: to Remember our fallen U.S. veterans; to Honor those who serve; and to Teach children the value of freedom. This creed, found on the WAA website embodies the philosophy that remembrance and educating today's youth on the importance of veterans and their contributions to America are extremely important. It's this imperative mantra that drives the efforts of WAA throughout the entire year, even after the holidays are over.

"Our vets are an important part of the foundation of our country. Without them, we wouldn't have the freedoms that we enjoy today. They should not be forgotten once they are laid to rest. We need to honor their names, lives, how they lived and died," declared Fundraiser Co-chair Jeri Setzer, of the Mary Ball Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution Wreaths Across America Group.

When asked about her personal connection to the WAA project, she continued, "I have patriots and veterans that have fought in just about every war the United States has been in. My dad served during the Vietnam era, my grandfathers in WWII and Korea, my great grandfathers in the Civil War. I am also an Army mom and aunt."

There's more to the WAA concept than simply beautifying headstones of cherished veterans, according to WAA Executive Director Karen Worcester: "We are not here to ‘decorate graves.' We're here to remember not their deaths, but their lives."

It's this dedicated mindset that has allowed the organization to be successful; the WAA website encourages people from all sorts of stations to contribute to the cause in whatever ways they are able - from individuals to large volunteer groups, to corporations and trucking companies. The harmonious universality mirrors the camaraderie found in the United States military, the same camaraderie shared between the veterans Wreaths Across America seeks to honor.

To learn more about Wreaths Across America, to volunteer, or to donate to the Daughters of the American Revolution, Mary Ball Chapter, visit www.wreathsacrossamerica.org.

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