Honoring veterans

Published 10:14 am Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Event at noon Saturday at Woodland Cemetery

Wreaths Across America will take place at Ironton’s Woodland Cemetery this Saturday.

The event takes place at precisely noon.

For the past five years, local Wreaths Across America coordinators Juanita Southers and Linda Dalton have taken donations in an effort to put wreaths on the graves of all 1,200 veterans in the cemetery.

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Southers said when it began five years ago, 50 people showed up.

“Now we get 150, regardless of the weather,” she said. “Doesn’t matter how cold, how wet, they come. Old and young alike.”

This year’s speaker will be Lt. Col. Kenneth Napier.

Southers said the ceremony is one that is exceptionally quiet and she asks that everyone who wants to attend arrive by 11:30 or 11:45 a.m.

“And anyone who wants to lay a wreath can do so,” she said. “They didn’t need to have purchased one.”

Southers said that it isn’t just the pair of them putting this event on.

“A military groups from Symmes Valley will do the honor guard and the Ohio National Guard 216 Engineering Battalion has come down from Columbus to help since the very beginning,” she said, adding that is the same National Guard unit her late husband, Carl, was in for 32 years.

She said that truckers volunteer to bring the wreaths in. Then Aaron Beals and the other men who work at Woodland Cemetery store the wreaths until the day of the ceremony.

“His workers haul them up to the cemetery on Saturday morning before we get ready to lay them.

Then the National Guardsmen takes them out of the box,” Southers said. “If it wasn’t for everybody in the community who helps and donates their time and money, we wouldn’t be able to do this.

Southers and Dalton got the idea five years ago after visiting Southers’ daughter in Washington D.C. and taking part in Wreaths Across America putting wreaths on veterans’ graves in Arlington National Cemetery.

“My daughter suggested that it would be a beautiful thing to do at Woodland because, in the summer and the spring, there are flowers on the graves. And on Memorial Day, there are flags,” Southers said. “But when you get into fall and winter, it is just desolate. There is nothing up there. So, we decided that this would be our project.”

All the money is raised by donations and volunteers, and this year the group got enough to purchase 600 wreaths. Since that isn’t enough for all, they put one wreath between two graves.

“That way we can cover the whole cemetery,” Southers said.

The wreaths are made of live evergreens and the national Wreaths Across America has a goal of putting a wreath on every veteran’s grave in America. The group’s motto is “Remember, Honor, Teach.” The group first laid wreaths in Arlington Cemetery in Washington, D.C. in 1992 and the effort spread across the country.

The wreaths at Woodland Cemetery will remain on display throughout the holidays and will be taken down on Jan. 20.