By BRENNA GRITEMAN
National Wreaths Across America Day was celebrated at 1,600 cemeteries across the country Saturday, including Findlay’s Maple Grove.
Local coordinator Gaven Smith says approximately 300 volunteers helped lay 1,000 wreaths on local veterans’ graves. Per Wreaths Across America’s mission, volunteers say the veteran’s name out loud and thank them for their service before placing an 18-inch live evergreen wreath at their grave. Each wreath is adorned with a red bow symbolizing the veteran’s sacrifice.
Garner Trucking sent two drivers to Harrington, Maine, where the nonprofit was founded, to pick up the wreaths. Garner 2019 Driver of the Year Buddy Sampley joined what has become the nation’s longest veterans parade to Arlington National Cemetery, where 253,000 wreaths were placed. Tom Watkins, a driver and a military veteran himself, brought the load of wreaths to Findlay, after delivering two partial loads to cemeteries in the Toledo area.
Smith, who is also a veteran of the U.S. Marines, says this is the fourth year Findlay has participated in Wreaths Across America. The project is facilitated by Hancock Youth Leadership.
He says there are approximately 4,500 veterans buried at Maple Grove, so placement of the wreaths rotates annually to assure each grave is decorated throughout the years.
The purchase of the wreaths was made possible by $16,335 in local donations.
From now through Jan. 15, all wreaths purchased for the 2020 effort will be matched by the Wreaths Across America headquarters. Donations to the local effort can be made through the Findlay-Hancock County Chamber of Commerce at https://findlayhancockchamber.com/wreaths-across-america/
Additionally, volunteers are needed to remove the wreaths from the cemetery at 10 a.m. Jan. 18. Anyone interested can simply show up that morning.