Wreaths Across America events planned for December 17
By Mike Steely
Each year Knox County’s three veterans cemeteries take part in Wreaths Across America when hundreds of local veterans, their families, and involved citizens gather to decorate the graves of those men and women who served.
Be it at the Knoxville National Cemetery, the New East Tennessee State (Lyons View) Veterans Cemetery or the New East Tennessee State (Gov. John Sevier) Veterans Cemetery, donated wreaths will be placed at each grave. Last year more than 18,000 veteran graves were decorated to remember and honor each veteran.
The volunteers are to assemble at each cemetery at noon, Saturday, December 17, to begin unloading the wreaths and walking into the graveyards to distribute the wreaths. Some wreaths go on the graves of a family member, some on veterans the volunteer knew, some are decorated simply in honor and some wreaths are placed for veterans who have never been identified.
Fundraisers are held each year prior to purchasing the wreaths. Each cemetery coordinates the wreath ceremonies and each wreath costs $15.
Wreaths Across America is a nationwide effort that started in 1992. Donations locally can be mailed to Wreaths Across America, P.O. Box 50054, Knoxville, Tn. 37950 or sent online at knoxwreaths.org. Information on volunteering to help place the wreaths is available at each cemetery.
Chris Albrecht, local coordinator for Wreaths Across America, told The Focus that the need for donations is ongoing. He added that 15 to 20 veterans are buried at the John Sevier East Tennessee Veterans Cemetery each week.
Albrecht said that when volunteers come to the wreath laying, they should remember that it is to honor veterans. When placing the wreath at the gravestone the volunteers should take a step back and say the veteran’s name aloud.
“People die twice, once when they pass away and once when their names are no longer spoken,” he said. He added that volunteers should arrive early and attend the ceremonies that each cemetery has before the wreath laying. Often one veteran of each military service places a special wreath in a service representing their military. Recently that military service designation has grown to include the Merchant Marines and the U.S. Space Force.
Those interested in volunteering can also visit wreathsacrossamerica.org to find each cemetery’s location, parking instructions and ceremony information.