HARLEM, Ga. (WJBF) – Every year, Wreaths Across America honors fallen service members by putting a Christmas wreath on their graves. This year, for the first time, Harlem is participating with a ceremony of its own.
The Harlem Women’s Club and the VFW partnered with several Harlem businesses to bring Wreaths Across America to the town. It’s something that plan to keep doing each year.
Wreaths Across America has been honoring veterans in 1992, by laying wreaths at older headstones in Arlington National Cemetery on the third Saturday of December.
In 2005, a photo of the wreaths became viral and hundreds of cemeteries wanted to take part. Now, 29 years later, more than twenty seven hundred locations are part of the annual tradition, including Harlem.
Organizers Valarie Wingate and Karin Helton both have ties to the military. This year they made it their mission to bring Wreaths Across America to Harlem’s fallen veterans.
“It’s a wonderful way to honor the fallen. Honor our veterans. Their slogan is Remember, Honor, Teach. And each year they also have a different theme. This year’s theme is ‘Live up to their Legacy,'” said Helton.
They partnered with Veterans of Foreign Wars to raise funds to buy the wreaths. They credit the community with exceeding their goal in just two weeks.
There will be a ceremonial wreath laying before friends and volunteers place them at each veteran’s grave.
Helton explained that the event means a lot to the service members’ families.
“They’re just honored. They’re honored that we want to honor their veteran and their service. As you well know, it’s not just the service member who sacrifices when they’re in the military. It’s the whole family.”
There will be speakers and World War II Veteran Louis Graziano will say the pledge. Graziano, a Thomson resident, is the last living witness to the surrender of the Germans to Allied Forces.
The ceremony is open to the public and will take place at the Harlem Memorial Cemetery at noon on Saturday, December 18.