By Yvette Smith, Courier staff December 23, 2013
Dark skies, drizzle and falling temperatures did not deter Soldiers, Family members and volunteers from gathering at the Kentucky Veterans Cemetery-West as part of the Wreaths Across America ceremony Dec. 14, 2013.
Cathy Alexander and her three children were part of that group.
"We've been coming for three years," said Alexander. "My father, their grandfather is buried here."
Each child grabbed as many wreaths as their small hands would allow and then made their way down the rows of gravestones, stopping at those without wreaths. After pausing a few seconds to read the headstone, they carefully laid down a wreath.
"It's important for them to know who paved the way for their lives," said Alexander.
Attendees placed more than 1,900 holiday wreaths on gravesites at the Kentucky Veterans Cemetery-West thanks to donations made by the nonprofit agency and various local organizations.
"This will be our seventh year participating in the Wreaths Across America project," said Richard Stanely, Kentucky Veterans Cemetery-West director. "The first year, we just had a ceremony where we place military wreaths that honored each branch of service and it has evolved to where in the last three years, we've had a wreath for every grave."
More than $19,000 was raised for the Kentucky Veterans Cemetery-West event, all of which was donated by the local community.
"The Gold Star Wives Eagles Chapter of Fort Campbell collect money for us, the American Legion, the AMVETS folks, just about every Veteran organization in the area helped with donations," said Stanely.
Wreaths Across America was founded in 2007 by Morrill Worcester, owner of the Worcester Wreath company of Harrington, Maine, to continue and expand on the yearly wreath-laying ceremony he began in 1992, according their website. The organization provides discounted wreaths to organizations sponsoring Veteran gravesites and conducts an annual ceremony at the Arlington National Cemetery.
Retired 1st Sgt. Dale Land and his Family attended the ceremony in honor of his son, Dakota Land, who is buried at Kentucky Veterans Cemetery-West.
"It is a very honorable project," said Land. "What a great way to recognize and take a moment each year to remember."
In 2008, Congress issued a proclamation officially recognizing Wreaths Across America Day each December.
The organization's efforts to honor Veterans are carried out annually through its coordination of wreath-laying ceremonies at the Arlington National Cemetery and Veteran cemeteries nationwide.
The Kentucky Veterans Cemetery-West remembrance ceremony highlighted the program's mission -- to remember, honor and teach about the service and sacrifices of Veterans, active military and their Families.
Alexander instills this to her children on a daily basis.
"They know how important it is to appreciate all of the Soldiers who aren't here," said Alexander. "They always think of them first. As young as they are, I'm just happy that they appreciate the right kind of stuff."