On Saturday, Leavenworth will once again be part of a national recognition of the sacrifices made by veterans.
National cemeteries both in Leavenworth and on Fort Leavenworth will host ceremonies in conjunction with the sixth annual Wreaths Across America. Volunteers at both locations will be placing wreaths at the graves of soldiers in designated sections at each of the two national cemeteries in the county following brief ceremonies that begin at 11 a.m. during which wreaths for each branch of the military, the Merchant Marines and for prisoners of war and those missing in action. All 131 Veterans Affairs national cemeteries receive at least those wreaths, according to information form VA.
William Owensby, director the Leavenworth National Cemetery Complex that includes the sites in Leavenworth, on post and in Fort Scott, Kan., said estimates are that about 700 wreaths will be placed on graves at Leavenworth. About another thousand are coming to be placed on the fort. Those numbers, Owensby said, indicate a trend that has continued since Wreaths Across America was first brought to Leavenworth.
“There’s more every year,” he said.
There have also been more volunteers, something that Owensby said he attributes to those who attend spreading the word.
“Word of mouth is your very best form of advertisement,” he said.
The two ceremonies are being organized by different groups — the event on Fort Leavenworth is led by the Gold Star Mothers, with support from the American Legion Riders and the Patriot Guard motorcycle groups. The effort at Leavenworth National Cemetery is sponsored by the Kansas Civil Air Patrol New Century Composite based in Johnson County.
Though only six years old, Wreaths Across America grew out of an older practice — that of the Worcester Wreath Company of Harrington, Maine, sending holiday wreaths to Arlington National Cemetery, a tradition that will be 20 years old this year.
In the past, Owensby said the Wreaths Across America volunteers have endured rain, snow and bitter temperatures for the ceremony. Despite the conditions, people still come each year. Owensby said something as simple as placing a wreath on the grave of a soldier underscores what he saw as one of the central facets of the event.
“The main thing about all of this is to educate young people about what our veterans have done for our country,” he said.