Several hundred people braved chilly weather to attend the Wreaths Across America ceremonies at Fort Logan National Cemetery.
Wreaths Across America began in 1992 when the owner of Worcester Wreath Co. in Maine discovered the company had a surplus of holiday wreaths. The owner arranged to have the wreaths taken and placed on graves at Arlington National Cemetery to remember the veterans there, honor them and to teach younger generations about the value of their freedoms.
The program remained largely unchanged until 2005, when it received national attention. The demand for wreaths grew beyond what the company could donate, so a program was established for sponsoring wreaths at a cost of $15 per wreath.
Those taking part in the Fort Logan ceremonies on Dec. 15 included military personnel, veterans' groups like the Scottish American Veterans, and civilians including members of the Patriot Guard. There were about an equal number of young men and women of the Civil Air Patrol, the Young Marines, the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts taking part in the event. In addition, there were numerous individuals and groups who had volunteered to place the 1,100 wreaths on the graves of veterans.
Ralph Nations, who was master of ceremonies, said the Fort Logan event has been part of the national program for several years.
The ceremonies began with a color guard presenting the flags and representatives of each service placing a wreath. Nations then introduced the families and Gold Star mothers attending the service, and read a list of the men who died in combat fighting terrorism.
That was followed by speeches, a 21-gun salute, bugles playing “Taps” and bagpipers playing “Amazing Grace.”
Volunteers then stepped up to place the 1,100 wreaths, which could only be placed on a small percentage of the 80,000 graves at Fort Logan.
Some placing wreaths were families of the veterans, and there were wreaths designated for the graves of veterans who have died in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The undesignated wreaths were taken and placed on veterans' graves in the area around the ceremony.
Eagle Scout Ethan Pfeiffer joined fellow members of Littleton's Boy Scout Troop 361 who lined the road holding American flags during the ceremony.
“My family has a history of military service, so I feel honored to be there today,” the Arapahoe High School senior said. “It meant a lot to be part of these ceremonies. I feel it is a way to volunteer my time to honor the veterans for what they have done for our country.”
Cindy Fellows held a wreath close to her as she walked to the grave of a Vietnam veteran nearby.
She said she is an Army veteran who served in Iraq and volunteered to place wreaths when she heard about the program.
“I like to do anything I can to honor veterans,” the Centennial resident said. “I didn't even know about the Wreaths Over America program until a friend told me about today's ceremony. I am so glad I came. It is a special program and I am honored to be part of it.”
Young John Paul Justius was also a volunteer and, with the guidance of his dad, placed a wreath on the grave of World War II Army Capt. Lee Lang.
“I think this is special,” the Castle Rock 7-year-old said. “My uncle is in the Army and we are doing this to honor soldiers.”