During the holidays last year, a small delivery of fresh wreaths from Wreaths Across America arrived at Serenity Meadows Memorial Park and Funeral Home in Riverview for placement on veterans’ graves in the cemetery. Rico Dixson, a family service counselor there, was intrigued and researched this annual tradition, then shared it with his wife, Kelly Hoban, a high school science teacher at Florida Virtual School.

“We then visited Sarasota National Cemetery and were moved by the sight of hundreds of beautiful wreaths with red bows adorning the monuments,” Hoban said. “We set out to learn more about the Wreaths Across America organization and how this wreath tradition came to be.”

The mission of Wreaths Across America is to remember, honor and teach. This knowledge lasts all year long, far beyond the single day in December when the organization coordinates wreath-laying ceremonies. All throughout the year, Wreaths Across America works, in a number of ways, to show our veterans and their families that we will not forget and that we will never forget.

When a volunteer places a wreath on a veteran’s grave on National Wreaths Across America Day, they are encouraged to speak that veteran’s name aloud, thank them for their service and sacrifice and reflect on that person and their life along with the wreath-laying ceremonies. At all cemeteries throughout the country, the organization also holds special memorial ceremonies.

“We knew they wanted to ensure more veterans interred right here in their community at Serenity Meadows Memorial Park receive this unique recognition in 2021 and beyond,” Hoban said. “We had already established a nonprofit organization called the Decide and Provide Foundation dedicated to ensuring honor and dignity for all lives lived through estate planning, so contributing to the Wreaths Across America mission was right in line with their values. We decided to focus their efforts on raising awareness of Wreaths Across America, the annual wreath placement ceremony on December 18 and how the community can contribute by donating funds for the purchase of wreaths.”

Wreaths Across America’s goal is to lay 300 wreaths to honor veterans at Serenity Meadows as well as display one for each branch of the military. Local Boy Scouts and volunteers will assist in the ceremony, which involves saying the name of the veteran in recognition of their service as their wreath is placed.

“Right now, with community support, we have purchased 219 wreaths out of our goal of 300,” Hoban said. “To help raise awareness about Wreaths Across America, we had a free event on October 25 with the Wreaths Across America Mobile Education Exhibit in Riverview. The exhibit serves as a mobile museum educating visitors about the service and sacrifice of our nation’s heroes.”

Wreaths Across America Day is on Saturday, December 18. If you’d like to learn more about the organization, visit www.wreathsacrossamerica.org.

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Libby is a writer for The Osprey Observer/The Christian Voice. She started as an intern in 2009 and upon finishing her internship, she was asked to stay on as a permanent writer for both papers. Libby lives in Brandon with her two rescue dogs, Olive and Bogey.