On Dec. 19, family, friends and volunteers will comb Mountain View Cemetery in Longmont to honor fallen heroes by placing wreaths on each of their headstones. For the second consecutive year, the cemetery will be participating in Wreaths Across America, and the local chapter invites the community to support and donate through the month’s end.
“Even though our main goal every year is fundraising for enough wreaths to cover all veteran graves, we do much more than that,” said Delaney Dreckman, local Wreaths Across America coordinator. “We bring together the community for one cause: to honor our veterans, living and passed.”
Wreaths Across America, which got its start over a decade ago at Arlington National Cemetery, has expanded to more than 2,100 cemeteries across the country. For Dreckman, whose husband and both grandfathers served in the Marine Corps, supporting this event is not only about bringing together neighbors, family and friends, but also giving back.
"Every year, someone lays a wreath on my grandfather's grave (at the San Francisco National Cemetery). I wanted to return the favor,” she said.
There are more than 1,500 veterans buried at Mountain View Cemetery and, in addition to honoring them, the organization also is interested in teaching the community about the veterans buried there, Dreckman said.
“Mountain View Cemetery was founded in the 1800s, there are veterans buried there from the Civil War. A lot of these older headstones don't have families in the area anymore or visitors on a frequent basis,” she said. “It's our job to make sure these veterans are never forgotten.”
Wreaths Across America Longmont has raised enough money for 795 wreaths to date and it needs help to meet its goal of 1,500, according to its Facebook page, which is regularly updated.
“Each wreath is $15 so our goal every year is to raise approximately $23,000,” Dreckman said, adding people can donate any amount of money or a wreath specifically to their loved one buried at Mountain View Cemetery.
Michelle Martin, program volunteer and restaurant fundraising coordinator for the local chapter, said it has been able to secure donations through partnerships with local restaurants this summer and fall.
“We weren’t able to get as many restaurant fundraisers as we would have liked because of COVID so we have been doing what we can through these (partnerships)”, she said, adding the last restaurant fundraiser will take place this week at Parry’s Pizzeria and Taphouse.
From 5 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, which is Veterans Day, Parry’s will donate 20% of all dine-in and takeout sales to Wreaths Across America Longmont, according to the Facebook event page. Customers coming in to donate only need to mention they want to contribute to the fundraiser, Martin said. Parry’s on Wednesday also will offer a free dine-in meal to veterans with a valid ID.
Texas Roadhouse also will be supporting Wreaths Across America fundraising efforts. Nov. 22 through Dec. 5, the local chapter will receive 10% of proceeds from purchased gift cards. The link for the gift card fundraiser will be added to the Facebook page on Nov. 22, according to Martin.
“We have a long way to go to get to 1,500 but every $15 we raise is one more wreath,” she said.
Ann Warhola, program volunteer and volunteer member of the American Legion Auxiliary Unit 32 in Longmont, has been heavily involved in the local effort since 2019 and hopes for a good turnout this year in spite of COVID-19.
“I appreciate the support of the Legion and people at the Legion donating to help honor our veterans, but I really would appreciate it if we could get more (donations),” she said. “(COVID) has definitely impacted (the efforts). People are leery to go out and the majority of American Legion members are older people.”
For Warhola, whose husband is buried at Mountain View Cemetery after serving in the Korean War and who was a member of the American Legion for over 40 years, this event reminds her of the service of veterans.
“People forget about them. I remember my husband being in Korea for 17 months during the war and seeing what went on there, and I think of that,” she said. “It’s sad (veterans) are not recognized. They should be, especially at Christmas.”
Wreaths Across America is receiving donations through the end of the month and invites anyone who wants to attend or volunteer in the ceremony to get involved, according to Dreckman.
“Obviously we are somewhat restricted by COVID-19 requirements,” she said. “We will require face coverings when 6 feet or closer to other volunteers not in your household. … Our ceremony takes place 100% outside and we have more than 40 acres to spread out.”
Other COVID-related regulations will be released closer to the date of the ceremony, and the ceremony also will be livestreamed via Facebook for volunteers who prefer to watch the ceremony from their homes or vehicles, Dreckman said.
Correction: Delaney Dreckman's grandfather is buried at San Francisco National Cemetery. That information was incorrect in the original posting of this story.