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City’s gift boosts wreaths for veterans’ grave sites

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More than 500 Christmas wreaths will be placed on the graves of Bartholomew County veterans Saturday, continuing and expanding on a 4-year-old tradition launched here by a Hope area man who did not live to see his dream realized.

Most of the ribbon-bedecked wreaths will be placed on graves in the two veterans sections of Garland Brook Cemetery following ceremonies at the Bartholomew County Memorial for Veterans at 11 a.m. and the cemetery at noon.

However, wreaths also will be provided to family members of veterans who might be buried elsewhere in the cemetery or in other cemeteries following the Garland Brook ceremony.

The original plan for the distribution of wreaths had to be significantly altered this week. Originally, organizers of the project, which is patterned after a national effort called Wreaths Across America, had planned to make 300 wreaths available but received a surprise Tuesday in a phone call from Columbus Mayor Kristen Brown, informing them that the city’s Board of Works had approved earlier that day a donation of $2,300 to the group.

Ron Shadley, finance officer of the Sons of the American Legion Squadron 24 and coordinator of the wreaths project, expressed appreciation for the gift.

“I would love to have a wreath on every grave in the cemetery’s two veterans sections,” he said Wednesday. “This gift will bring us very, very close to that goal. I’m just taken aback by the support from the city. It’s huge.”

Actually, there might be enough to fulfill Shadley’s dream.

Officials at Garland Brook Cemetery said there were about 1,000 graves in the two sections dedicated to veterans, but that number includes spouses of the deceased. Officials believe the first section was established in the 1960s and the second about 15 years ago. In all, there are more than 4,000 veterans buried at Garland Brook.

In announcing the city’s gift, Brown said, “Our veterans deserve our respect, and this is a very thoughtful way to give back and honor them during the holiday season. We can never repay our veterans, but we can always remember them, especially during this time of year.”

The Wreaths Across America project began modestly in 1992 when a for-profit wreath-making company in Maine decorated several hundred graves in Arlington National Cemetery with surplus stock. The project got national attention and spread across the country.

It was started here in 2009 by Lou Broering, who never served in the military but was the son of a veteran. The 2009 project was modest due to a late start and consisted of only three large wreaths placed at the Memorial for Veterans.

The following year, organizers had raised enough money to place 100 wreaths on graves of area veterans, but Broering never lived to see the ceremony. He died Nov. 20, 2010.

The tradition continued into 2011 with 300 wreaths.

Because of the unexpectedly large number of wreaths that have to be placed, Shadley and Brown said they are hoping local residents will volunteer to help prepare and place the wreaths on the graves at Garland Brook. Anyone wishing to volunteer or make contributions to next year’s project can contact Shadley at Myers-Reed Dignity Memorial Chapel at 3729 25th St. or by phone at 376-3341.

Wreaths Across America

When: 11 a.m. ceremony Saturday at Bartholomew County Memorial for Veterans, noon Saturday ceremonies at Garland Brook Cemetery. Wreath-laying at the two veterans sections of the cemetery following the ceremony.

Volunteers: If you would like to help, contact Ron Shadley at Myers-Reed Dignity Memorial Chapel at 3729 25th St. or by phone at 376-3341.

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