|Messenger photos by Renee Gannon|
|Graves of 630 veterans were adorned with wreaths on Dec. 13 as a part of the Wreaths Across America program that began in Maine in 1992.|
|Second Lt. Michael Dunlap from Columbus, currently stationed out of Fort Benning, Ga., places a wreath on the headstone of a soldier.|
Vietnam veteran Mike Hogan appreciates the idea of placing wreaths on graves of military veterans at Christmas time.
Hogan, who lives in Brice, was one of about 150 volunteers who turned out in the snowy weather Dec. 15 to pay tribute to veterans by placing 630 wreaths on graves at Green Lawn Cemetery.
“I was glad to help,” Hogan said as he stood in the middle of the World War II veterans section, surveying the wreaths leaning against every over marker. “I’m glad this was done. No one else does anything like this.”
Hogan was the first person to respond to a call for volunteers after Green Lawn learned it would be receiving wreaths for the Wreaths Across America program. Thanks to the efforts of Michael Schoedinger of the Schoedinger Funeral Service and Crematory, Green Lawn and Kingwood Memorial Park were among the 270 cemeteries nationwide that participated in the program.
Wreaths Across America began in 1992 when the Worcester Wreath Co. of Maine had an excess of wreaths at the holidays. Not wanting to throw them out, the owner of the company made contacts in Washington and obtained permission to place those wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery.
The act was repeated year after year. Last year the project began to expand.
A brief ceremony in the center of the World War II veterans section at Green Lawn included the presentation of colors by the local Civil Air Patrol and an explanation of the program by Randy Schoedinger, president of the Green Lawn Board of Trustees.
As the snow turned to ice pellets, Green Lawn General Manager Linda Burkey instructed volunteers to report to the trucks parked alongside the section to get wreaths and place them on every other marker.
Within minutes all the wreaths had been placed, with the red ribbons at the top.
“It went fast,” said volunteer Brent Nimmo, a member of the Dennison Camp of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War. “I put out 10 wreaths and went back to a truck to get more and they were all gone. When I was most helpful was at the maintenance building loading up the trucks.”
Several volunteers who had trucks arrived a couple of hours before the program to load the wreaths in the truck and take them to the selected section. Ninety boxes of wreaths had arrived from Maine a few days before the scheduled wreath-laying ceremony.
Volunteers came from throughout Franklin County and one father-son team came from Johnstown to participate.
“I saw a lot of license plates with ‘veteran’ on them,” said Hogan.
Several members of the Air Force Junior ROTC at Westland High School and the Navy Junior ROTC from Franklin Heights came out with their leaders. Members of the local Civil Air Patrol unit, National Guard, and Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War helped place wreaths.
Grange Insurance circulated the call for volunteers and about 60 employees responded, some bringing their families.
“It was a large turnout for a single event,” said Sue Ridolfo, who heads up the company’s community volunteer project. She said the response was “growing by the hour” after she notified the employees.
Burkey, who had hoped the wreath laying could be completed in an hour, was astonished at how quickly and smoothly the project was finished.
“We’re finished already?” she asked as she laid her wreath against a marker.
Wreaths will remain in place for several more weeks. Visitors are welcome at Green
Lawn to view the display in Section 104 which lies just northwest of the office at 1000 Green Lawn Ave. Gates are open daily from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.