(Posted Dec. 27, 2019)
By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
At noon on Dec. 14, a group of Madison County 4-Hers, bundled in their coats and eager to pay tribute, became part of an international effort to honor military veterans.
At that time, on that day–at locations across the United States and overseas–thousands of volunteers laid wreaths on veterans’ graves. Members of the Monroe Winners 4-H Club were among them, laying seven wreaths–one for each branch of the military and one for prisoners of war and those missing in action–at Plumwood Cemetery off of State Route 38.
“We started small this year. Next year, we want to put wreaths on all of the veterans’ graves at the cemetery. It would be something like 150,” said Serenity Kirts, a Monroe Winners member.
The club used funds raised through its annual sub sandwich sale and its first-place prize money from the county fair 4-H booth decoration contest to purchase the seven wreaths through Wreaths Across America (WAA).
A non-profit organization, WAA got its start in 1992 when Morrill Worcester, owner of Worcester Wreath Co. in Columbia Falls, Maine, arranged to have a surplus of wreaths laid at some of the graves in Arlington National Cemetery in Washington D.C.
The gesture became an annual tradition that went on quietly until 2005 when a photo of the wreaths at the cemetery circulated widely on the Internet. The wreath company fielded thousands of requests from people who wanted to support the effort, from helping to lay wreaths at Arlington to doing something similar at cemeteries near them. The effort grew exponentially from there, and the non-profit was formed.
The organization’s mission is to remember the fallen, honor those who serve, and teach children the value of freedom. The Monroe Winners have latched onto this mission. It’s a good cause and a good fit for the club, Kirts said.
“Wendy (Hall), one of our advisors, gave us the idea. She had heard about Wreaths Across America somewhere and thought it would be something good for us to participate in,” Kirts said.
Plumwood Cemetery sits across the street from the Monroe Township trustees building, where the 4-H club holds its meetings.
“We already do a clean-up at the cemetery every year for Memorial Day,” Kirts said. “We pick up sticks, scrub headstones, pick up trash, and straighten flowers and flags and other things on the graves.”
Wreaths Across America is now an extension of the club’s community service at the cemetery.
“We plan on doing it next year and then keep it going,” Kirts said.
The Monroe Township trustees have offered to help with the project next year, she said. The club also will continue to put money from its fundraisers toward the effort.