• A woman weeps over a headstone at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery after placing a Christmas wreath on it, Nov. 30, 2013. More than 1,000 volunteers from the Fort Hood/Killeen, Texas, area joined family members of the fallen to place more than 5,000 wreaths on the grave markers at the cemetery. The event is organized by the Friends of the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery and is in its eighth year. The wreaths will remain on the markers through the holiday season, and will be removed the first Sunday in January.

    Christmas brings color, grief to Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery

    A woman weeps over a headstone at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery after placing a Christmas wreath on it, Nov. 30, 2013. More than 1,000 volunteers from the Fort Hood/Killeen, Texas, area joined family members of the fallen to place more than...

  • Carley Lawry, 5, places a wreath on a headstone at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery Nov. 30, 2013. More than 1,000 volunteers from the Fort Hood/Killeen, Texas, area joined family members of the fallen to place more than 5,000 wreaths on the grave markers at the cemetery. The event is organized by the Friends of the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery and is in its eighth year. The wreaths will remain on the markers through the holiday season, and will be removed the first Sunday in January.

    Christmas love from a child to a fallen hero

    Carley Lawry, 5, places a wreath on a headstone at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery Nov. 30, 2013. More than 1,000 volunteers from the Fort Hood/Killeen, Texas, area joined family members of the fallen to place more than 5,000 wreaths on the...

  • Volunteers do last-minute adjustments to Christmas wreaths before placing them on grave markers at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery, Nov. 30, 2013. More than 1,000 volunteers from the Fort Hood/Killeen, Texas, area joined family members of the fallen to place more than 5,000 wreaths on the grave markers at the cemetery. The event is organized by the Friends of the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery and is in its eighth year. The wreaths will remain on the markers through the holiday season, and will be removed the first Sunday in January.

    Volunteers place Christmas wreaths at veterans cemetery

    Volunteers do last-minute adjustments to Christmas wreaths before placing them on grave markers at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery, Nov. 30, 2013. More than 1,000 volunteers from the Fort Hood/Killeen, Texas, area joined family members of the...

  • Christmas wreaths adorn headstones at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery Nov. 30, 2013. More than 1,000 volunteers from the Fort Hood/Killeen area joined family members of the fallen to place more than 5,000 wreaths on the grave markers at the cemetery. The event is organized by the Friends of the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery and is in its eighth year. The wreaths will remain on the markers through the holiday season, to be removed the first Sunday in January.

    Christmas wreaths for fallen heroes

    Christmas wreaths adorn headstones at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery Nov. 30, 2013. More than 1,000 volunteers from the Fort Hood/Killeen area joined family members of the fallen to place more than 5,000 wreaths on the grave markers at the...

  • Abby Mattox, 6, hugs her grandfather's headstone at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery after placing a Christmas wreath on it, Nov. 30, 2013. More than 1,000 volunteers from the Fort Hood/Killeen, Texas, area joined family members of the fallen to place more than 5,000 wreaths on the grave markers at the cemetery. The event is organized by the Friends of the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery and is in its eighth year. The wreaths will remain on the markers through the holiday season, to be removed the first Sunday in January.

    Christmas wreaths placed for fallen warriors

    Abby Mattox, 6, hugs her grandfather's headstone at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery after placing a Christmas wreath on it, Nov. 30, 2013. More than 1,000 volunteers from the Fort Hood/Killeen, Texas, area joined family members of the fallen...

  • Motorcyclists lay Christmas wreaths on grave markers at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery, Nov. 30, 2013. Bikers from many different clubs riding 196 motorcycles escorted the truck carrying the wreaths to the cemetery, and then participated in laying the wreaths to honor the fallen Soldiers laid to rest there. More than 1,000 volunteers from the Fort Hood/Killeen, Texas, area showed up to place more than 5,000 wreaths. The event is organized by the Friends of the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery and is in its eighth year. The wreaths will remain on the markers through the holiday season, to be removed the first Sunday in January.

    Cuts that care

    Motorcyclists lay Christmas wreaths on grave markers at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery, Nov. 30, 2013. Bikers from many different clubs riding 196 motorcycles escorted the truck carrying the wreaths to the cemetery, and then participated in...

  • Volunteers do last-minute adjustments to Christmas wreaths before placing them on grave markers at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery, Nov. 30, 2013. More than 1,000 volunteers from the Fort Hood/Killeen, Texas, area joined family members of the fallen to place more than 5,000 wreaths on the grave markers at the cemetery. The event is organized by the Friends of the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery and is in its eighth year. The wreaths will remain on the markers through the holiday season, and will be removed the first Sunday in January.

    Over 1,000 volunteers place Christmas garlands at Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery

    Volunteers do last-minute adjustments to Christmas wreaths before placing them on grave markers at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery, Nov. 30, 2013. More than 1,000 volunteers from the Fort Hood/Killeen, Texas, area joined family members of the...

  • Members of the "Chrome Cruzers" motorcycle club carry bundles of Christmas wreaths to be placed on grave markers at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery, Nov. 30, 2013. More than 1,000 volunteers from the Fort Hood/Killeen, Texas, area joined family members of the fallen to place more than 5,000 wreaths on the grave markers at the cemetery. Local biker clubs were well represented, giving the truck carrying the wreaths to the cemetery a 196-motorcycle escort. The event is organized by the Friends of the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery and is in its eighth year. The wreaths will remain on the markers through the holiday season, and will be removed the first Sunday in January.

    Motorcycle club helps place Christmas wreaths for fallen veterans

    Members of the "Chrome Cruzers" motorcycle club carry bundles of Christmas wreaths to be placed on grave markers at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery, Nov. 30, 2013. More than 1,000 volunteers from the Fort Hood/Killeen, Texas, area joined...

  • Volunteers place Christmas wreaths on grave markers at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery, Nov. 30, 2013. More than 1,000 volunteers from the Fort Hood/Killeen, Texas, area joined family members of the fallen to place more than 5,000 wreaths on the grave markers at the cemetery. The event is organized by the Friends of the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery and is in its eigth year. The wreaths will remain on the markers through the holiday season, and will be removed the first Sunday in January.

    Veterans from all walks of life place Christmas wreaths for fallen heroes

    Volunteers place Christmas wreaths on grave markers at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery, Nov. 30, 2013. More than 1,000 volunteers from the Fort Hood/Killeen, Texas, area joined family members of the fallen to place more than 5,000 wreaths on...

  • Volunteers place Christmas wreaths on grave markers at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery, Nov. 30, 2013. More than 1,000 volunteers from the Fort Hood/Killeen, Texas, area joined family members of the fallen to place more than 5,000 wreaths on the grave markers at the cemetery. The event is organized by the Friends of the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery and is in its eighth year. The wreaths will remain on the markers through the holiday season, and will be removed the first Sunday in January.

    Over 1,000 volunteers place Christmas wreaths for fallen warriors

    Volunteers place Christmas wreaths on grave markers at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery, Nov. 30, 2013. More than 1,000 volunteers from the Fort Hood/Killeen, Texas, area joined family members of the fallen to place more than 5,000 wreaths on...

  • Norma Peterson and her daughter Alaina, 5, place a wreath on a headstone at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery, Nov. 30, 2013. More than 1,000 volunteers from the Fort Hood/Killeen, Texas, area joined family members of the fallen to place more than 5,000 wreaths on the grave markers at the cemetery. The event is organized by the Friends of the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery and is in its eighth year. The wreaths will remain on the markers through the holiday season, and will be removed the first Sunday in January.

    Family places Christmas wreath on grave marker of fallen hero

    Norma Peterson and her daughter Alaina, 5, place a wreath on a headstone at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery, Nov. 30, 2013. More than 1,000 volunteers from the Fort Hood/Killeen, Texas, area joined family members of the fallen to place more...

  • Volunteers line up to help unload Christmas wreaths out of the back of a semi trailer at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery, Nov. 30, 2013. More than 1,000 volunteers from the Fort Hood/Killeen, Texas, area joined family members of the fallen to place more than 5,000 wreaths on the grave markers at the cemetery. The event is organized by the Friends of the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery and is in its eighth year. The wreaths will remain on the markers through the holiday season, and will be removed the first Sunday in January.

    More than 1,000 volunteers place Christmas wreaths for fallen heroes

    Volunteers line up to help unload Christmas wreaths out of the back of a semi trailer at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery, Nov. 30, 2013. More than 1,000 volunteers from the Fort Hood/Killeen, Texas, area joined family members of the fallen to...

  • Lois Adams chats with her son, Gregory, over the headstone of her husband, former Command Sgt. Maj. Samual Adams, after placing a Christmas wreath on it, at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery Nov. 30, 2013. More than 1,000 volunteers from the Fort Hood/Killeen area joined family members of the fallen to place more than 5,000 wreaths on the grave markers at the cemetery. The event is organized by the Friends of the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery and is in its eighth year. The wreaths will remain on the markers through the holiday season, to be removed the first Sunday in January.

    Family of fallen hero places Christmas wreath at his grave

    Lois Adams chats with her son, Gregory, over the headstone of her husband, former Command Sgt. Maj. Samual Adams, after placing a Christmas wreath on it, at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery Nov. 30, 2013. More than 1,000 volunteers from the...

  • Christmas wreaths adorn headstones at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery, Nov. 30, 2013. More than 1,000 volunteers from the Fort Hood/Killeen, Texas, area joined family members of the fallen to place more than 5,000 wreaths on the grave markers at the cemetery. The event is organized by the Friends of the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery and is in its eighth year. The wreaths will remain on the markers through the holiday season, to be removed the first Sunday in January.

    Christmas wreaths placed for fallen heroes

    Christmas wreaths adorn headstones at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery, Nov. 30, 2013. More than 1,000 volunteers from the Fort Hood/Killeen, Texas, area joined family members of the fallen to place more than 5,000 wreaths on the grave markers...

KILLEEN, Texas (Dec. 2, 2013) -- Vibrant splashes of seasonal green and red brightened a wintry morning at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery Saturday, as more than 5,000 Christmas wreaths were placed on row after row of snowy white grave markers.

More than 1,000 volunteers took time out from the hustle and bustle of the Thanksgiving weekend to join family members of the fallen and honor each and every service member interred in those hollowed grounds.

The event is organized by the Friends of the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery and is now in its eighth year.

The local chapter of the Patriot Guard Riders led 196 motorcycles, in front of the tractor-trailer carrying the wreaths to the cemetery. The roar of their engines filled the air under an ivory white sky as hundreds of volunteers watched them file two-by-two through the gates and along the narrow road that loops through the grounds, their numbers passing by until they nearly circled the entire cemetery.

Once the truck was staged, and the motorcycles parked, the bikers joined the large crowd of volunteers for a short ceremony before the wreaths were placed.

"I'm more than honored to be with you all today, and I don't say that lightly," said the featured speaker, retired Lt. Gen. David Richard Palmer, former superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy and local resident. "My very first heroes were veterans, long before I was one. As a boy during World War II, I followed the men and women who were waging that war and they became my heroes. At that time there were lots of World War I veterans around, and I knew a lot of them, and there were even a few Civil War veterans. Along with those revered veterans of America, my current heroes are those men and women who have been fighting for the last decade in Iraq and Afghanistan."

It was a those heroes, past and - perhaps especially - present, who were on the minds of the volunteers as they set about the task of decorating thousands of gravesites holding the remains of men and women who died as veterans, many of them having given the ultimate sacrifice.

Volunteer Todd Allison, who was unloading bunches of wreaths out the back of the semitrailer, expressed a powerful sense of community as hundreds of people lined up to take the bundles from him.

"My brother is in the Army so it's good to be part of this," he said. "Look at all these people who came out today. It's amazing and it says a lot about [Killeen]. This town is very supportive of the military, as it should be."

The strong roots of patriotism that run through the generations of this military town were evident by the sheer number of people who showed up to help. So many, in fact, that organizers had to limit the number of wreaths each person could place so that every volunteer could have a chance to honor a fallen warrior.

Small children and their families, retired veterans, bikers, senior citizens and teenagers in letter jackets - all ventured into the serene sea of gravestones together, kneeling to place their wreaths. In less than an hour, every marker had been visited, with a lustrous green and red garland carefully placed against it.

Ken Ray, owner of Towne Services, a local shipment and storage company that furnishes the tractor-trailer that transports the wreaths and stores them year-round, said he's been proud to support the event, which only grows bigger each holiday season.

"In another year we'll probably have to add another truck," he said.

Page last updated Mon December 2nd, 2013 at 00:00