A Gresham nonprofit organization has joined a national effort to honor fallen veterans at Christmas by placing wreaths at headstones across the country.
The Gresham VFW Post 180 Auxiliary is selling wreaths through Wreaths Across America, and has become a local sponsor of the Willamette National Cemetery where hundreds of wreaths will be placed in honor of veterans later this year.
"The hope is to someday say every veteran, no matter where they lie, gets a wreath on their grave during the holiday," said Patricia West, treasurer of the Gresham VFW Auxiliary
Community members can join in by purchasing wreaths — a single wreath costs $15, with free shipping to whichever participating cemetery you choose. There are also bundle options to purchase multiple wreaths.
The wreaths, which are 23-inches across featuring brilliant red bows, will be placed on Saturday, Dec. 18, and remain through Jan. 20. Volunteers are welcome to join at Willamette Cemetery, 11800 Mt. Scott Boulevard, that morning for a ceremony and to help lay the wreaths.
"A lot of the times the families who took care of those graves are gone," West said. "The volunteers say the name of the veterans, thank them for their service, salute, then lay down the wreath. As long as those names are spoken out loud, they are never forgotten."
While you can purchase a wreath through the main website, if you instead go through the Gresham VFW Auxiliary it will help raise money for their projects supporting veterans and their families. Every wreath bought using the Auxiliary's code — wreathsacrossamerica.org/OR0064P — automatically donates $5 to the group, with no extra costs for the customer. The group's goal is to sell at least 100 wreaths in its first year participating.
Going through the Auxiliary also allows for your wreath to be placed at a specific headstone, rather than just a cemetery. So if you have a loved one you want to have honored with a wreath, the Gresham Auxiliary can ensure that happens. To generally place a wreath at Willamette National Cemetery, use ID code ORWNCP while making your purchase.
"As wives and mothers and children of veterans, we know how important it is to honor a family member who served," West said.
The wreaths can be purchased online, or by visiting the VFW Auxiliary booth every Saturday through the end of the month at the downtown Gresham Farmers Market. Volunteers at the market can help make the purchase using a credit or debit card, and ensure the wreath goes to the right cemetery/headstone.
"More than anything we want to get the word out that this is something new in our community," West said. "We have so many veterans from our community resting up at Willamette — the hope is to have a wreath for all of them."
The deadline to purchase a wreath online is Sunday, Nov. 28. For more information, visit WreathsAcrossAmerica.org
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