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Our Opinion: A small, but powerful, tribute

December 2, 2022 at 4:00 a.m.

Not all lessons are learned in a classroom.

That principle was taught magnificently this week when about 40 Russellville High School students were taken to a local cemetery to honor the sacrifices of local veterans.

The students laid wreaths at the graves of the veterans. But it was no casual affair; a task to be quickly completed so that they might venture of to the next assignment.

Rather, the students divided up into small groups and quietly searched for the graves of veterans. When they found one, they laid a wreath by the tombstone, stepped back and put their hand over their heart and simply said, "Thank you."

A simple, yet reverent gesture to acknowledge the sacrifices made by the veterans.

The Wreaths for Heroes event, which is coordinated by the Jefferson City Veterans Council, has become a splendid holiday tradition in the Capital City area.

The local tradition began in 2010 under the leadership of Lorraine and Pete Adkins.

In 2009, the Adkins had attended a Wreaths Across America event at Jefferson City's National Cemetery. There was little support at that community event, and it troubled Lorraine.

That disappointment fueled her mission to ensure the veteran's sacrifices weren't forgotten.

"I knew then I had to do something," she told the News Tribune in 2011.

In less than a year, Adkins and a committee of about 15 were able to raise money, get most area schools involved, organize local vendors for donations and volunteers, and before Christmas 2010, put an artificial wreath and red bow on each of the National Cemetery's 1,587 graves.

For more than a decade, her passion for veterans and her vision for the community has only grown.

"This is a very, very important project," Don Hentges, who works with Wreaths for Heroes and is the president of the Jefferson City Veterans Council, told the Russellville students. "When you're doing the wreaths, think about the sacrifices that these guys and gals have made for our country and that you can be free to do things like this."

The students certainly understood.

In the words of Jillian Schmidt, a junior: "Because I feel like, sometimes, as students, we sometimes get so caught up in sports and stuff like that, that we ... forget to do stuff like this. And I just think it's very important to honor our veterans and for the students to realize that they deserve to be honored and they're the reason we are free."

We would be wise to learn the lesson taught by the Russellville students.

A similar wreath-laying ceremony is set for Saturday, Dec. 10, at the Jefferson City National Cemetery. Volunteers who wish to help with ceremony are asked to be at the cemetery between 8:15-8:30 a.m.

Well done, Lorraine.

-- News Tribune

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