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1,782 veterans honored during Wreaths for Heroes

1,782 veterans honored during Wreaths for Heroes

December 16th, 2018 by Danisha Hogue in News

Harold Brown Jr. places a flower and a wreath on his mother's, Gladys Shott, grave Saturday at the National Cemetery. Brown has honored his mother and father, who is buried next to Gladys, with a wreath since the ceremony began 8 years ago. This year he was also accompanied by his daughter Lori Brown seen behind him.

Photo by Sally Ince /News Tribune.

In the Jefferson City National Cemetery, Harold Brown's grave sits next to his wife, Gladys. A rare sight to see since most couples are buried in the same plot.

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This makes Harold Brown Jr.'s trip to the cemetery extra special on the third Saturday in December. He leans a wreath just below each of his parent's headstones followed by a flower for his mother.

Accompanied by his daughter, this is their holiday tradition.

"It's a ceremony I get with my daughter," Brown said. "I get to celebrate my dad and mother at the same time."

Wreaths for Heroes led hundreds of volunteers Dec. 15 to place wreaths on the graves of 1,782 veterans in Jefferson City.

Before 8 a.m., residents loaded their trucks with boxes of wreaths and headed to Busch's Florist on Madison Street.

Led by a motorcycle processional with Jefferson City Police Department and Jefferson City American Legion Riders, they entered the cemetery where more volunteers waited.

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Jim Farthing and his son, Chester, of Jefferson City, came out for their second year of volunteering. Jim said finding a purpose for his small truck to carry a few boxes to give back is a good community service.

"I like getting my son involved and showing him to pay proper respect to our veterans," Jim said.

Many volunteers were returners, but some were new to the crowd. John Hunt and wife Kathy recently moved to Jefferson City. When they heard about the event, they thought it would honor their fathers who were veterans and show regard for all who sacrificed.

While patriotic songs filled the cemetery, volunteers spread over the 2 acres carefully, following the wreath laying etiquette.

When the wreath is placed in the ground, volunteers took a step back to do a heart salute or hand salute.

"We want to show respect," Don Hentges said.

Hentges took over as president of the committee after the passing of Lorraine Adkins.

Adkins started the annual event in 2010. She passed away in April 2017.

"It's kind of sad we don't have Lorraine here anymore but what a beautiful thing she started in our community and I hope we can keep it going and I'm sure we will," Hentges said.

As a former Vietnam Veteran, he said it's an honor and a duty to recognize veterans.

"This community comes out and supports it so well, it's just beautiful. By doing it in Jefferson City. I feel we're honoring all the veterans around the world who have died for us."

He and other members said they felt like Adkins would be pleased with the volunteers and the ceremony.

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"Lorraine is taking care of us and making sure we have good weather," Rosie Verslues said.

Verslues said she has been on the committee since the beginning and is happy with the way it has grown. She noticed the increased youth presence at the cemetery paying respect to those who've served.

Guest speaker Gary Kempker thanked everyone for their "unselfish efforts" in his speech.

"As I look at the wreaths placed reverently on each of these grave sites, it represents an idea that we haven't forgotten," he told the crowd.

"We honor their sacrifice, we appreciate their gift."

The wreaths are scheduled to stay at the cemetery until Jan. 19. Volunteers will be needed again at that time.