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Writer Killeen French-Hill

From a small tribute to a nationwide movement, Wreaths Across America has become a tradition for people across the country. This organization has spread awareness throughout America of Veterans and the risks and courage taken by these humble people. In fact, its mission is, “To Remember, Honor, and Teach.” As the movement grew across the country, a chapter was formed right here in the Toledo area. In fact, Toledo Memorial Park became involved in 2013. Volunteers include children and adults of all ages, and many local organizations. In the past few years volunteers have increased.

Ronan and SFC Matt Carder (Army) carrying wreaths.

Several years ago, my sisters and I participated and laid wreaths on several headstones. In the beginning, it was just an activity to do and we did not fully appreciate why this is important. Each year though, as we listened to the service, stood beside those in uniform, and met them on an individual basis, we began to understand the sacrifice these noble people have taken every day in order for us to be safe. They are ordinary people, just like us, but they do extraordinary work.

SFC Matt Carder teaching Killeen how to salute for the wreath laying. (Original photo by BK Photography)

So each year, as we walk in snow, rain, or warm weather, we lay our wreaths on the headstone of a person, say that person’s name, and thank him or her for their service. During that moment, I think of the lives lived and lost, and the courage given by these brave souls. In many ways, we are beginning to understand the meaning behind the organization’s mission. We do think about that person, we think of their life, and in so many ways, they teach us our history and maybe where we need to go in our lifetime.
Although this organization takes the time to bring people together once a year, it is my belief that it is enough to simply stroll through the cemetery and honor our veterans on any day of the year.

SFC Matt Carder, Killeen, and Tanner Heslet during the wreath laying ceremony.