November 28, 2022

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Photo provided GRAVESTONES adorned with wreaths and lots of snow at last year’s ceremony.

WASHINGTON, Pennsylvania – In December, the George Washington Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution will again participate in the Wreaths Across America project in conjunction with the Alleghenies National Cemetery located in Washington County, Pennsylvania.

More than 25 years ago, Merrill Worcester, owner of a nursery in Harrington, Maine, had a glut of Christmas wreaths and nothing to do with them.

Recalling a trip he took, as a 12-year-old newspaper boy, to Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C., he had the idea to donate his surplus wreaths to the cemetery. Arlington National to be placed in an older section of the cemetery that has seen few visitors. to be placed on veterans’ graves as a sign of remembrance and honor to the men and women who have served our country. This act of a man became what we call today “Crowns Across America.”

As news spread, especially these images of snow-covered graves with wreaths leaning against headstones, additional cemeteries were included.

In 2020, in more than 2,500 cemeteries in this country and 25 veterans’ cemeteries on foreign soil, more than 1,700,000 wreaths were placed on the graves of veterans.

Wreaths Across America is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to remember the dead, honor those who serve, and teach our children the value of freedom.

This year will be the 11th year for the George Washington Chapter to participate in this project at the Alleghenies National Cemetery.

The Alleghenies National Cemetery was created after careful consideration and research was conducted into the number of veterans in our tri-state area. It is estimated that there are over 323,000 veterans. The nearest other veteran cemeteries are located in Rittman, Ohio; Indian Town Gap, Pennsylvania; Grafton and Dunbar, West Virginia.

The Alleghenies National Cemetery was established in 2005 and is located on approximately 300 acres near the Washington-Allegheny County border and can be viewed from Interstate 79. It can accommodate casketed and cremated remains. Cremated remains may be buried in the ground or in specially designed wall sections or “slots”.

Before becoming a national cemetery, it had been continuously cultivated since the 1800s when John Fawcett, a Revolutionary War veteran, received the property as compensation for his war service. Fawcett also played an important role in the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794. There was already a family cemetery on the property which contains Fawcett’s remains as well as fellow Revolutionary War veteran Richard Boyce and several members of both families. This part of the original cemetery will remain as it is.

As the end of 2021 approaches, more than 21,000 people have been buried in this cemetery, and every year local residents participate in Wreaths Across America. Participants can view new sections opened since the previous year. The cemetery is open to veterans, their wives or husbands, and dependent children. The most notable person buried in this cemetery is United States Air Force First Lieutenant Charles William Tate, a World War II veteran and one of Tuskegee’s famous airmen. He was awarded the Air Medal with four oak leaf clusters and the Distinguished Flying Cross. In addition, seven soldiers who were killed in action in Iraq and Afghanistan and six who died of wounds from those conflicts are also among those buried there.

The George Washington Chapter began its partnership with the NCA in 2008 when funds were raised to purchase and donate a four-person electric cart to transport families to the cemetery. They also dedicated a “rock” in the memorial aisle that reads, “In memory of all soldiers of the Revolutionary War whose burial place is known only to God.”

In 2009, which was the chapter’s first year of participation in wreaths, there were nearly 3,000 graves and only 800 wreaths were placed. The Chapter obtained sponsorships for approximately 40 crowns. To show how this program has grown, with a count of around 17,000 people buried last year, we have placed 16,000 wreaths. Of this, the George Washington Chapter was responsible for 3,184 wreaths, making us the largest, out of 30 other groups, to collect sponsorships for this cemetery and last year, for the sixth year, with the graves already decorated by families, each grave has been marked. It is so humbling to join family, friends, veterans, youth and church groups and other volunteers who took the time on a cold, rainy Saturday last December to lay wreaths at these graves. Organizers encourage attendees to not just lay wreaths, but to take a moment to read the name of the person buried there as well as their branch of service and the war they participated in.

The chapter has launched its 2021 campaign and their wish is that Ohio Valley residents consider sponsoring a wreath or wreaths. The cost is $15 each. The George Washington Chapter does three for two, which means that for every two crowns sponsored, a third is provided at no additional cost. This year, National Wreath Day across America is scheduled for December 18 at more than 2,700 participating locations. This is a free and non-political event open to all, but again this year the ceremonies will be a little different at the Alleghenies National Cemetery due to the ongoing construction work in the cemetery. Wreath laying will take place over three days due to limited parking.

“To those who serve in our armed forces today, to those we have lost, and to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice so that we can enjoy the freedoms of this great country, we promise we will not forget,” specify the chapter. “In life they honored their country and now it’s a chance for us to honor them.”

Those who wish to sponsor one or more crowns can send their check to “Crowns Across America” and send c/o Gary Timmons, 13 Elm Lane, Wheeling, WV 26003.

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