LAYTON – A long-time tradition from back east is making its way into the west, including Top of Utah. Every December, the nonprofit organization Wreaths Across America decorates thousands of gravestones with a simple balsam remembrance wreath as a symbol to thank American veterans.
Several people in Top of Utah are working to ensure veterans in local cemeteries are not forgotten this holiday season, following the tradition started by a Maine businessman in 1992 at the Arlington National Cemetery.
Keith Brown of Riverton had never heard of the event until visiting Camp Williams last year for the Wreaths Across America ceremony and decided he wanted to do something similar for his father, a veteran who is buried in the Layton Lindquist Mortuary.
“I initially thought it would be nice to sponsor a wreath for my father, but then as a family, we decided why stop at just one,” said Brown. “We decided to see if we can sponsor the whole cemetery, so that visitors know about them when they are walking around.”
Ceremonies will be held at over a dozen locations in Utah, which can be found at www.wreathsacrossamerica.org. At the Layton Lindquist Mortuary, a ceremony will be at 10 a.m. on Dec. 13. Following the short program, those attending will be invited to lay a wreath at the grave of a veteran buried at the cemetery.
Brown’s wife, Denyce, says the tradition is particularly meaningful to their family given with a son, who has served in the army and another son and daughter-in-law who currently serve in the National Guard. “We wouldn’t even have the privilege to have an event like this if weren’t for their sacrifices. It is humbling when people take a second and remember, and even if we only have 10 wreaths, we will still do it every single year,” Brown said.
“In past years, when placing the last wreath, we’ve seen bare markers and we’re reminded of the veterans who sacrificed so much for their country who are not being recognized,” said Wayne Hanson, WAA chairman. “With a predominantly volunteer staff and no government funding, we are asking every American to do their part to honor our nation’s heroes.”
Michael Clark, who grew up in Maine, is now in Utah helping the Browns with the project. Both of Clark’s grandpas are veterans buried in Maine, so they each get special attention from the Wreaths Across America program.
“It’s one of those things that pulls at the heart strings, and back in the east, a lot of scout troops get involved and seeing them after every wreath placement stop for a moment and think about what they are doing, evokes a lot of emotion for me,” Clark said.
Clark admits Veteran’s and Memorial Day holidays are set aside for remembering veterans, but there is a whole different aspect come Christmastime. “This is a way for families to still celebrate with the ones that aren’t there, and a way for us to honor and recognize what people give to us,” Clark said.
“Each and every wreath is a gift from an appreciative person or family who knows what it means to serve and sacrifice for the freedoms we all enjoy, said Karen Worcester, executive director of Wreaths Across America. “We are so humbled that the community of Layton is participating in our mission to Remember, Honor and Teach.”
For more information on how to donate or sign up to volunteer, email the Browns at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.WreathsAcrossAmerica.org. Individual wreath sponsorships are $15, couple wreath sponsorship, $30, family sponsorship of five wreaths, $75, and small business sponsorship of 10 wreaths, $150.