As volunteers and family members lay down wreaths on the graves of local veterans, they each make sure to say the name on the headstone in front of them.
“Part of being in the service is that you will leave no one behind,” said Larry Wilhelm, color guard captain for Frisco-based American Legion Post 178, “and part of leaving no one behind is making sure that they will always be remembered.”
It’s an instruction provided to each volunteer and an essential part of Wreaths Across America, a national effort to honor and remember veterans during the holiday season by placing wreaths on their graves. This year, over 48,000 wreaths were placed at the Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery as part of the 2021 effort.
On Dec. 17, volunteers, including veterans from Post 178, helped unload about 8,000 boxes of wreaths. They then helped place over 48,000 wreaths during a Dec. 18 ceremony.
“It was outstanding as always,” Post 178 Commander Delbert Parsons said. “It’s hard to describe the feeling with the event they put on and then to be able to place the wreaths mostly on graves of people we don’t know. But it’s a great mood, and there were tons of people out there again this year, so that was great to see.”
With many families unable to come out and put down flowers or wreaths, Parsons said, the Wreaths Across America initiative ensures the veterans buried at the cemetery are still honored.
“Many people bring their children out there to teach them about the value of service and the freedom that we enjoy in America out there, in addition just to remember all those soldiers that have fallen to give us that freedom,” Wilhelm said.
The event at DFW National Cemetery hits close to home for Post 178. The post’s namesake, Peter J. Courcy, was a 22-year-old Army corporal who was killed in 2009 while serving in Afghanistan. Courcy’s mother and stepfather, Mary and Chris Bush, are integral in coordinating Wreaths Across America efforts at the cemetery.
This year, there were enough wreaths to honor each veteran at the cemetery. Parsons said the wreaths will be picked up on Jan. 15.
For Wilhelm, seeing the expanse of veterans headstones marked with wreaths is overwhelming.
“When you get out there that morning, you see the gravesites, but in the afternoon when the ceremony’s over with and you see the green wreaths with the red bows on it and every stone on the floor out there, it’s just so impressive and leaves such an impression on everybody."