HUNTINGTON — More than 500 wreaths were laid by community members Saturday at Spring Hill Cemetery in Huntington to honor veterans who dedicated their lives for American citizens’ freedom.
Wreaths Across America started in 1992 when the owner of a Maine wreath company, Morrill Worcester, ended the year with a surplus and took the remaining wreaths to Arlington Cemetery to place them on the graves in an older, less trafficked part of the cemetery.
In 2018, about 1.8 million veteran wreaths were placed on headstones at 1,640 participating cemeteries across the country. The wreaths are meant to honor the veterans’ service and sacrifices made for the country’s freedoms.
In Huntington each year, citizens meet at Spring Hill Cemetery to honor local veterans. Local volunteers have the goal of each of the 6,000 veterans’ graves having a wreath, but only a few hundred are donated each year.
Despite chilly, rainy weather on a gloomy Saturday, more than a hundred veterans, service members and loved ones from the community gathered to show their appreciation.
Megan Luke, event organizer, said it fills her heart to know so many people participate in the event locally and nationally.
“The freedoms we enjoy today did not come without a price,” she said. “Lying before us in this cemetery are all the men and women who have given their lives so we can have the freedoms and live without fear.
“We can worship as we see fit and teach our children to do so as well. We can travel from one end of the country to the other without asking permission to do so or being in fear for our lives. We have the right to succeed or fail in whatever endeavor we choose to take part in, and that is just an amazing blessing.”
Kevin Brady, executive director of the Greater Huntington Park & Recreation District, called the 500 wreaths “tremendous growth” from last year. While organizers estimated 500 wreaths had been sponsored, the Wreaths Across America website states over 650 wreaths were sponsored in 2019, well surpassing the goal of 500.
In 2017, just under 150 wreaths were donated. At $15 a wreath, more than $7,500 was donated for the cause.
Just over 50 of those wreaths were donated in honor of veterans whose names were read out loud at the ceremony.
Hershel “Woody” Williams was featured as Huntington’s guest speaker this year, with guests invited to place their wreaths following the ceremony. A representative from Congresswoman Carol Miller’s office also spoke, along with Brenda Thomas, of Gold Star Mothers and Family, and other honored guests.
The ceremony was hosted by the GHPRD, Mid-Valley Composite Squadron, Civil Air Patrol and Hudak Family Medicine.