by Kym Byrnes
On December 12, veterans buried at Mt. Olivet Cemetery will be honored as an estimated 1,450 wreaths are placed on tombstones. The annual event is coordinated by Wreaths Across America, a national organization honoring deceased veterans across the country.
This will be the 3rd Wreaths Across America event held at Mt. Olivet Cemetery. Last year’s event brought out close to 300 community members, according to event organizer Laurie Menges. The organization is accepting donations for wreath sponsorships through Veterans Day, Nov. 11. Menges said she is hoping to raise enough money to place 1,450 wreaths this year. Each wreath costs $15.
The ceremony will begin at 11:50 a.m. as the God Bless America Motorcycle Color Guard rides into the Veterans Garden at the cemetery. The Hanover Allied Veterans Color Guard, accompanied by the Hanover Area Young Marines, will also participate. At noon, those at Mt. Olivet Cemetery will join other cemeteries in every state, national cemeteries overseas and ships at sea in a moment of silence honoring our veterans.
Menges said the Hanover ceremony will be a little different this year.
“In keeping with the mission of Wreaths Across America, we will have mostly children run the ceremony this year,” Menges said.
The mission of Wreaths Across America is Remember-Honor-Teach, which represents remembering our veterans, honoring our veterans and teaching the children about our veterans.
This year at Mt. Olivet Cemetery, children will sing the National Anthem, lead the pledge and do the invocation, according to Menges. Children, accompanied by adults from the various military branches, will also lay the ceremonial wreaths. Instead of having adult speakers, Menges said she is hoping to have children speak.
This year’s theme is “cemeteries are for the living – every stone tells a story.”
“I want children to tell the stories of some of our veterans buried at Mt. Olivet – all the way back to the Revolutionary War,” Menges said.
In 1992, a small business owner in Harrington, Maine, inspired by a childhood visit to Arlington National Cemetery, decided to donate his wreath business’s excess wreaths to Arlington to be placed on older graves. By 2007, what started out as a very small, quiet annual wreath laying ceremony grew so much that the Wreaths Across America nonprofit organization was founded and similar ceremonies started taking place at cemeteries across the country.
According to the organization’s website, in 2014, Wreaths Across America and its national network of volunteers laid more than 700,000 wreaths at 1,000 locations in the US and beyond. The organization’s goal of covering Arlington National Cemetery was accomplished in 2014 with the placement of 226,525 wreaths.
After the ceremony at Mt. Olivet Cemetery on Dec. 12, event attendees are invited to take wreaths and place them on the graves of veterans.
“It is an amazing experience to see the community out placing wreaths and taking a moment at each gravesite to thank a veteran,” Menges said. “You’ll see veterans, families, high school students, Girl Scouts and lots of others take part in this community event.”
This is a free event, open to the public. To learn more about the event or sponsoring a wreath, visit www.facebook.com/HanoverPAWreathsAcrossAmerica.