MONTE VISTA — The air was chilly on Saturday, Dec. 18, as people gathered around the giant statue of a soldier that stands in the middle of the Homelake Veterans Cemetery for the local Wreaths Across America ceremony.
Pam Self, who is the Director of Marketing and Admissions at the Colorado State Veterans Center, opened the ceremony.
“To begin this event, we ask that you all join me in a moment of silence to remember the fallen, the prisoners of war, those missing in action, and to honor those who have served, and are serving this great Nation’s armed services,” Self said.
Everyone then bowed their heads in a moment of silence.
Wreaths Across America is a non-profit organization that began as an addition to the Arlington Wreath Program. The Arlington program was started after a donation from Morrill Worcester, owner of the Worcester Wreath Company. In 1992, the wreath company had a surplus of wreaths toward the end of the holiday season. He donated 5,000 Christmas wreaths to be placed in the Arlington National Cemetery that year. A ceremony was held at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Worcester continued to donate wreaths each year. The event continued quietly for some time, until a photo of the stones with wreaths spread, gaining national recognition. Suddenly, requests by the thousands were made by people who saw the pictures and wanted to reproduce the project, in their own national and state cemeteries.
Recognized and unanimously voted on by Congress, “Wreaths Across America Day” now takes place on a Saturday in December, every year.
After the moment of silence and the Pledge of Allegiance, Self gave a patriotic speech.
“The United States of America was founded on the ideals of freedom, justice, and equality,” she said. “Our nation stands as a shining beacon of liberty and freedom to the world. We thank those who gave their lives to keep us free, and we shall not forget you; we shall remember. Many of you here today have answered the call and have served your country well, and for this we thank you.”
Self said that this year an additional wreath had been added to the ceremony to honor the people serving in the US Space Force, along with the veterans who served in roles, helping to secure the nation’s interest in space.
Veterans and volunteers placed the ceremonial wreaths in front of the statue, honoring past and present veterans, and the new wreath for the active-duty US Space Force.
After a group photo, the crowd went to the front of the cemetery where boxes of wreaths were placed. People took wreaths out and placed them on the headstones of veterans and took a moment to say each of the veterans' names in remembrance of their service.
On Tuesday, Dec. 14, at a Holiday Luncheon held at Dos Rios Restaurant. The Monte Vista Rotary Club donated $500 to Self for the Wreaths Across America Ceremony. At the luncheon, Self said there were enough wreaths this year to place one on each veterans’ headstone, at the Homelake Veterans Cemetery.
For more information on Wreaths Across America, visit their website.