Copperas Cove volunteers turn out to lay wreaths for veterans
By MIKE MYERS
On a soggy Saturday morning, family members and volunteers placed more than 13,000 wreaths on the graves of veterans and family members buried at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery in Killeen.
Known as the Wreaths for Vets, the organization and volunteers laid the first wreath in 2006 on the graves of approximately 400 veterans and family members interred or buried at the cemetery.
Soldiers from III Corps Fort Hood posted the colors to begin the annual Wreaths for Vets Ceremony.
Hilary Shine of the Friends of Central Texas Veterans Cemetery said that for 16 years this has been so important because, “This community made a promise when they said we want and will support a veterans’ cemetery. This is where it belongs. Look at the veterans that are growing around us. We say thank you for that service. It’s a special level of dedication and honor, when the community comes out to say, we will honor you, even when your service on earth is through. We will honor you, even if we don’t know you, we will honor you forever.”
Lt. Gen. Sean Bernabe, commanding general of III Corps Fort Hood, was a guest speaker.
“Today is a special day as we honor all of our veterans, to include the fallen veterans and their family members, to pay tribute to their selfless service, and their families and honor their legacy year after year,” Bernabe said. “Let us be thankful that our nation has such national treasures, like these veterans and their families. Let us vow to always remember and appreciate, and to never forget.”
Dianne Yoho Campbell, Place 5 Copperas Cove City Council, has led a group of Copperas Cove volunteers for six-years. The volunteers are from the City government, Copperas Cove ISD, as well as various clubs and organizations. Campbell is responsible for section 2. Campbell’s group laid about 2,600 wreaths in less than two-hours. Campbell said that the laying of the wreaths is very personal to her.
“My husband [Gen. Charles C. Campbell] passed away almost seven years ago, in February, and he’s interred at Arlington Cemetery, and they do the Wreaths for Vets. As the spouse of a veteran who has been laid to rest in a VA cemetery, it’s very comforting to know that there are people that care about your loved ones,” Campbell said.
Enrique Medina laid a wreath at the headstone of his father in section 2. Also in section 2, was Maria Jimenez.
“This is the first year that all the children and grandchildren were together to lay the wreath,” Jimenez said.
Cliff Burgoyne, Command Sgt. Major at Fort Hood, III Corps, volunteered in section 2.
Burgoyne said, “A nation that forgets their veterans, is a nation that will not last. Our nation always remembers our veterans.”
Campbell said that Jean Shine began the campaign for the Wreaths for Vets.
“Jean believed every fallen servicemember should have a Christmas wreath,” Campbell said.
There were only 400 gravesites when Wreaths for Vets began in 2006, the same year the cemetery buried its first veteran. Shine used her own money to buy the wreaths and put them together. Hundreds of people volunteered to place the wreaths, rain or shine. Every year, around 1,200 servicemembers and family members from all branches of the military are buried or interred at the veterans cemetery.
Fundraisers, grants, monetary donations, volunteers, and in-kind labor are a few of the resources that keep the program funded. Each silk wreath costs about $8 and lasts about three years. The organization purchases about 4,000 wreaths a year.
The orderly and reverent wreath-laying was done in sections. Section leaders and volunteers represented Georgetown, Copperas Cove, Killeen, AUSA, Lampasas, Harker Heights, Salado, SG & MP-Hutto JROTC.