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"Wreaths Across America" honors local fallen veterans

Greensburg Daily News - 12/19/2017

Dec. 19--GREENSBURG -- Unseasonably warm but extremely breezy conditions did not stop close to 100 local residents from honoring their service-fallen on Saturday. The staff of Gilliland-Howe Funeral Home and patriotic town volunteers decorated the graves of more than 400 veterans at South Park and St. Mary's cemeteries in Greensburg as part of "Wreaths Across America Day."

"As a veteran of the U.S. Army, I was honored to come out and honor my fallen brothers by decorating the sacred ground in which their bodies rest," Army Veteran Earl Six commented. His eyes clouded with heartfelt tears as he finished. "It's just a beautiful sight to see these guys remembered."

In 1992, Worcester Wreath found themselves with a surplus of wreaths nearing the end of the holiday season. Remembering his boyhood trip to Arlington National Cemetery, Morrill Worcester, owner of the Worcester Wreath Company in Harrington, Maine realized he had an opportunity to honor our country's veterans.

With the aid of Maine Senator Olympia Snowe, arrangements were made for the wreaths to be placed at Arlington in one of the older sections of the cemetery that had been receiving fewer visitors with each passing year.

Through the years that followed, this program became an important cause to the Worcester Wreath Company. In 2005, a photo of the Arlington cemetery, covered with snow and rows of gravestones decorated by the brush-green wreaths and bright hand-tied red velvet bows went viral on the internet. An estimated 450,000 wreaths have been placed on gravestones all over the nation and that number continues to grow with each year.

Baylor Trucking has been involved with Wreaths Across America for nine years now, and donates all transportation for all the Indiana-bound wreaths. "It's something that's very special and dear to our hearts. We love our country and when we started, it was only five trucks to Arlington, but now, we make all the stops to all of the participating cemeteries in Indiana," Carrie Baylor stated.

At the service in South Park cemetery, Gilliland-Howe staff was asked what inspired them to become involved in such a major volunteer effort.

"We saw a booth at a seminar," Tricia Burkhart and Braiden Ryle explained. "We grabbed a pamphlet, and Leslie (Thackery) took it from there. We start fundraising on Memorial Day, and right around Veteran's day, we place our orders. We just do it because we believe in it," they explained.

"We charge $15 a wreath, and with a donation of two wreaths, the donor gets one to lay on their choice of a veteran's grave," Funeral Director Leslie Thackery said. "We'd like to be able to honor the over 2,500 vets in South Park and St. Mary's someday," she continued.

"Because everyone dies twice, once when their physical body dies, and then again, when their name is uttered for the final time, we encourage the folks helping us to read the name of the veteran out loud, and then place their wreath," Leslie Thackery said. "It's very important that their names are said aloud. It's how we keep their memory alive."

To take part in "Wreaths Across America 2018" contact Leslie Thackery or Braiden Ryle at Gilliland-Howe Funeral Home on 110 E. North Street in Greensburg at (812) 663-8341.

Contact Bill Rethlake at 812-663-3111 etc. 7011 or email bill.rethlake@greensburgdailynews.com.

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(c)2017 the Greensburg Daily News (Greensburg, Ind.)

Visit the Greensburg Daily News (Greensburg, Ind.) at www.greensburgdailynews.com

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