Volunteers needed for annual wreath preparation, laying
By BRITTANY FHOLER
The week of Thanksgiving brings families together to enjoy turkey and all its fixings, but it also serves as the week where dozens of volunteers lay hundreds of wreaths at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery.
This Saturday, November 19, volunteers will begin fluffing the wreaths in preparation for the annual wreath laying next Saturday, November 26. More volunteers are welcome.
The fluffing and prepping of the wreaths will take place Saturday, November 19, at 10 a.m. at the Killeen Special Events Center at 3301 S. WS Young Dr.
The following Saturday, November 26, the Wreath Laying Ceremony will start at 10 a.m. at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery located at 11463 S. Hwy 195 in Killeen.
Copperas Cove will have a group of volunteers from the City government, Copperas Cove ISD as well as various clubs and organizations.
Former Copperas Cove City Councilmember Dianne Yoho Campbell has led the group for the past six years. Copperas Cove volunteers will be responsible for Section 2, which will include approximately 2,600 wreaths, she said.
“We need volunteers for everything,” Campbell said.
This includes loading the wreaths onto the trucks and unloading them at the cemetery, as well as laying the wreaths at each grave site and interment plaque. In times of inclement weather, some volunteer groups are unable to come out, but Campbell said that she would still love for individuals to come out and help.
Some annual volunteers include Police Chief Eddie Wilson and City Secretary Lisa Wilson, Public Relations Director Kevin Keller, Deputy Chief of Police Jeremy Alber, Copperas Cove ISD, CCHS DECA, CCHS JROTC and Star Group-Veterans Helping Veterans.
Campbell said that the laying of these 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 the 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. “Obviously I can’t get to see my veteran all the time, and so it just means a lot to me to know that there are people out there visiting sites, taking time out of their very busy schedules to honor veterans who served our nation.”
Campbell said she is an Army brat, with her father serving, her uncle serving and every generation of her family serving in some way dating back to the American Revolution.
“I think it is important to honor those who afford us the freedoms that we enjoy every day,” Campbell said. “That’s the bottom line for me is just saying ‘Thank You,’ being grateful, and what better time to do that than during Thanksgiving?”
Again, volunteers are needed this Saturday and next Saturday. For more information on Wreaths for Vets, readers can visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/WreathsForVets.
The tradition of laying a wreath at the gravesite and interment site of every servicemember came about after Jean Shine, of Shine Team Realtors and the former Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army, observed only a select number of wreaths being placed to recognize the different branches of service and POWS. She wanted every servicemember to be honored and remembered during the holiday season.
Buses will run from Texas A&M Central Texas on the morning of November 26. Volunteers should meet in the TAMUCT parking lot located on South Clear Creek Road/Loop 201 and take the shuttle bus to the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery to allow parking space for families of the veterans. The shuttle bus service to and from the cemetery begins at 8 a.m. with buses running every 15 minutes.
The unloading of the wreaths will begin at 8:30 a.m. that Saturday.
At the cemetery, there will be a brief ceremony starting at 10 a.m., with Lt. Gen. Sean Bernabe, commanding general of III Armored Corps, Fort Hood, as the guest speaker, and special music by Copperas Cove High School singers.
Gold Star survivors and immediate family members of those buried or interred at the cemetery will begin laying wreaths for their loved ones at 10:15 a.m., and volunteers will then disperse to place wreaths on the remaining graves.
Those attending who wish to find a particular grave can use the online nationwide gravesite locator by going to va.gov, then typing in grave locator and select Nationwide Gravesite Locator and enter the individual’s information.
The wreaths will remain on the graves through Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023, when volunteers will go back to the cemetery to collect the wreaths until the next laying of the wreaths.