It’s now an iconic image: Arlington Cemetery adorned with simple, uniformed wreaths with red bows each holiday season.
The tradition started in 2005 and has continued since. Friday, a Wreaths Across America truck stopped in the Ohio Valley.
Saturday at noon at cemeteries across the country, wreaths will be laid on the graves of veterans to honor them this holiday season. The truck travelling from Maine pulled up in front of James Funeral Home in Follansbee to deliver their shipments. They had just been at the National Cemetery of the Alleghenies where they dropped off more than a thousand to be laid there.
Local organizers are asking the community to come out to Brooke Hills Park to help lay the nearly 100 for the county.
“It’s supposed to be rainy, and the weathers not supposed to be great (Saturday), but if you think back to Vietnam or think back to Korea or WWI or II, what our soldiers endured for us. It wasn’t like, “oh, it’s Christmas time, and we can do this” or “oh, it’s too cold today and we can’t do this,”” said Wreaths Across America Rolling Ambassador Eric Fithyan.
Prime truck drivers volunteer their time to deliver the wreaths each year. Air Force Veteran Scott Keyek and his driving partner-in-training Steve, who is a retired law enforcement officer, say it’s hard to put into words why it’s important to them that they do this.
“Being a veteran and retired firefighter, it just hits home. I can’t answer that question to be honest with you. That’s just how deep in my heart that veterans matter,” said Keyek. “I feel too many in our society forget what our veterans sacrificed during WWI (and) WWII, and it’s just not right. We wouldn’t have the freedoms we have today if not for their sacrifices.”
Scott and Steve’s next stop is Bridgeport, West Virginia.
This is the third year the Chambers and James Funeral Homes participated in Wreaths Across America, donating one wreath to Brooke County for every two wreaths purchased by community members.
“This year’s campaign went wonderfully. Our 100th year celebration, we had a goal of 100 wreaths, and we got very close to that,” said Fithyan. “It was nice because we were able to start at Christmas in July and work it through the year. It’s something nice that the community can do to give back to the soldiers even at this time of the year. We think of them at Memorial Day and Veterans Day but its something nice to do at the holiday season.
Another local wreath ceremony you can attend will be in Wintersville at the Two Ridges Cemetery.
The featured speaker will be state senator-elect Frank Hoagland.