By Abby Vander Graaff
Via- Wyoming News Exchange
LARAMIE — A crowd of more than 50 people gathered in the sunshine and cold at Greenhill Cemetery Saturday morning to honor family, friends and strangers who served in the U.S. military.
The event was part of Wreaths Across America, a nationwide tradition when people gather to place wreaths on the graves of veterans.
This year’s event spanned 3,702 locations, including 26 on foreign soil.
In Laramie, volunteers symbolically placed 711 wreaths, though there are over 1,700 veterans buried at Greenhill Cemetery.
People from across the community came out for the event, including Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, the VFW and the Daughters of the American Revolution. For local participants, the event offers a time to reflect on the contributions of veterans and remember loved ones.
“We’re not here to decorate a cemetery,” said Karen Bard, one of the event organizers. “We are here to take a moment and to pause and to remember and honor each of our veterans.”
Each wreath has 10 balsam bouquets that represent special qualities of veterans, such as love and strength. The evergreens represent longevity and endurance, the red bow represents great sacrifice, and the circular shape of the wreaths represent eternity.The wreaths, which cost $15 each, are paid for through donations and delivered by volunteer truckers.
Before turning the volunteers loose to place wreaths throughout the cemetery, the group hosted a ceremony that included the playing of the national anthem and taps.
Bard spoke about the meaning behind the event and asked that volunteers read the names off the veteran’s headstones and take a moment of reflection with every wreath they place.
Event organizer Katie Morgan said the event is an appropriate addition to Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day, especially because of its proximity to the holidays.
“I think it’s important to remember our veterans in the holiday season especially, because that’s when they are missing from the family table, and families are thinking about their (family) members,” Morgan said.
This was true for many local participants who attended to ensure wreaths were placed on the graves of their loved ones.
For many, like Eli and Erik Maki, placing wreaths was a way to serve the community while also remembering grandparents and great-grandparents who are veterans and are buried at the cemetery.
While the participants took moments of quiet reflection throughout the morning, many also had smiles on their faces while walking through the snow of the cemetery.
“What really gets my tears going is we’re getting more and more young families that have absolutely no connection to the military at all, and they bring their families out,” Bard said.
This type of community engagement is important to fulfill one of the goals of the program, which is to teach people about the contributions of veterans.
Other attendees had a very simple answer for why they come out to place wreaths each year, which VFW member Lee Killian articulated.
“We’re here to honor our veterans,” he said.