Wreath retrieval is final act of honoring nation’s heroes

Special to Leader-Press
6,000 graves, 300 volunteers, and the opportunity to pay tribute to service members for their selfless service to the nation.
With winds gusting as high as 30 miles per hour, the Copperas Cove Five Hills royalty spread out across the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery joining hundreds of others working to retrieve holiday wreaths from the graves.
The wreaths were fluffed and bows adhered to them in mid-November and the wreaths were laid the weekend following Thanksgiving. Sr. Ms. Five Hills Robin Spencer said Saturday’s event was the final act of honoring our nation’s heroes. 
“Retrieval is just as important as laying wreaths as retrieval ensures that we are set to begin the process for next year,” said Spencer who is the spouse of a veteran. “Our Veterans who have passed deserve anytime we can give to them. The times we spend at the cemetery remind us of those who have passed and the many that played a role in our freedoms.”
The event is organized by the Friends of the Central Texas Veterans Cemetery which is funded entirely by donations. Laying holiday wreaths on the graves began in 2007 after the Wreaths Across America organization sent six wreaths to veterans cemetery across the United States to be laid in honor of each military service branch and POW/MIA. It was quickly determined by a volunteer that all service members deserved to be honored and work began to gather wreaths and volunteers to meet that goal.
As the granddaughter of a veteran, Copperas Cove Five Hills Ambassador Emily Kimball has helped fluff, lay and retrieve the wreaths for several years. She laid her hand on the top of each gravestone and said a prayer for the veteran before removing the pin adhering the wreath in the dirt. 
“Retrieving the wreaths at the veterans’ cemetery is very important. As we retrieve the wreaths, we remember the fallen veterans that fought for our freedom,” the 12 year old said. “By laying and retrieving the wreaths, we are giving our time to respect the veterans who have given their lives for us.”
In 2017, approximately 7,100 graves existed in the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery. In 2018, the number has climbed to nearly 8,000 including the grave of former Copperas Cove Mayor Frank Seffrood who was buried at the cemetery earlier this month. The cemetery sees an increase of approximately 800 graves annually. 
Little Mister Five Hills Brayden Chase, 6, went to church with Seffrood. He and his family made a point to look for Seffrood’s grave to say a prayer specifically for him and his family and to say thank you. 
“Retrieving the wreaths is a way to honor our veterans. We should honor our Veterans for them protecting us,” Chase said.

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