Remember, Honor, Teach: Wreaths Across America 2020

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2020 is the 100th anniversary of women getting the right to vote. In honor of women veterans, say these fallen heroes’ names out loud:

Marie Curtis VanEvery (1894-1942) Marie was the first female veteran buried at Soldier’s Circle. Marie served as a nurse in WWI. She was a member of the American Legion Ira Lou Spring Post #149.

Dagmar Hipps (1921-1948) First woman from Jamestown to join the WAC (Women’s Army Corp), she was in the motor pool stationed in Washington D.C. for two years. She was a member of the American Legion post in Washington, D.C.

Imogene Schwob Howell (1918-2011) Imogene was an Army Nurse dedicated to helping veterans effected by PTSD. She was the first woman American Legion Commander in Chautauqua County, handing off the gavel of the Ira Lou Spring Post #149 to her brother in 1977. She was also involved in the Jamestown Veteran’s Council organizing the annual Memorial Day Parade.
Each of these local veterans are buried at Lake View Cemetery’s Soldier’s Circle. As women, Marie, Dagmar, and Imogene overcame many hurdles to serve their country. At their death, they each left behind a family and friends. Every December the Wreaths Across America organization holds a ceremony to remember, honor and remind us of their sacrifice. When a volunteer places a wreath on a veteran’s grave, they say the veteran’s name and observe a moment of silence. This simple act reminds us of their sacrifice and to take care of our active soldiers, sailors, and their loved ones.
What is different this year

Usually thousands of volunteers across the nation decorate over 2,100 cemeteries and memorial sites with wreaths donated by Worcester Wreath of Harrington, Maine. This year, due to the pandemic, the number of volunteers is drastically reduced. Todd Hanson the Jamestown Wreaths Across America Coordinator said, “we have fewer wreaths this year because we couldn’t advertise as usual. In a normal year we visit different group’s meetings and hang flyers in businesses. That did not happen this year. I also cut back on advertising because we did not know if we could even have a ceremony. Luckily, we can have a remembrance ceremony on December 19 at Lake View Cemetery, but unfortunately we can’t have the usual number of supporters coming out.” He added, “instead of coming on December 19, families can visit on another day to honor their veteran and the other fallen heroes.”

How It All Started

In 1992, found themselves with a surplus of wreaths nearing the end of the holiday season. Owner, Morrill Worcester, was a 12 year old paper boy for the Bangor Daily News when he won a trip to Washington D.C. His first trip to our nation’s capital was one he would never forget, and Arlington National Cemetery made a lasting impression on him. Remembering his boyhood experience at Arlington, he realized he could honor our country’s veterans. With the aid of Maine Senator Olympia Snowe, the donation of a local trucking company, and volunteers from the American Legion and VFW Posts, he made arrangements for the wreaths to be placed at Arlington in one of the older sections of the cemetery that had been receiving fewer visitors with each passing year. The annual tribute went on quietly for several years, until 2005, when a photo of the stones at Arlington, adorned with wreaths and covered in snow, circulated around the internet. The rest is history. Now thousands of cemeteries across the country lay thousands of wreaths on the same day at the same time to “REMEMBER our fallen U.S. veterans. HONOR those who serve. TEACH your children the value of freedom.”

How you can help – from a distance

Another way we can all help is to assist local deployed families during the holiday season. They are missing their active service member or lost family member. Your help could make a big difference in this difficult time. If you have a deployed service member family in your neighborhood, leave them a gift, food, or a gas card to show your support. While we are restricted this year, you can show your concern and support in many hands-off ways.

Make some time this holiday season to remember those who have served and are serving our country. As they say, freedom isn’t free. It’s time for each of us to support our service members.