On Dec. 14, more than 1,600 cemeteries across all 50 U.S. states will take part in wreath-laying ceremonies through Wreaths Across America, including the city of Evansville’s Oak Hill Cemetery. While Wreaths Across America first started in 1992 at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington D.C., Oak Hill Cemetery has participated since 2011 and was the first in the Tri-State to offer the program after the River City Cadet Squadron reached out with the idea.
The program in Evansville averages 800 wreaths a year that are placed on veterans’ graves. Anyone can donate to sponsor a wreath or come to the ceremony to lay a wreath, regardless of whether they are a wreath sponsor.
“This is an extremely moving and important event that shows respect to those who have gone before us,” says Chuck Gorman, commander of the River City Cadet Squadron, the civilian volunteer auxiliary to the United States Air Force. “It’s really a remarkable sight to see small children, with the help of their parents and others, laying a wreath on someone they may not know.”
The goal of the program is to remember fallen veterans, honor those who serve, and teach children the value of freedom. Along with the wreath laying, the ceremony also includes a guest speaker who addresses the crowd and members of the squadron who present the colors and lay the ceremonial wreaths.
“What better way to preserve the traditions and sacrifices of the past than by ensuring each grave of a veteran within our gates has the potential to be honored in this way during a time of year when many are focused on other things,” says Chris Cooke, the superintendent of cemeteries for the city.