By COLLIN BROOKS
17,800. That is the number of fallen soldiers who have found their final resting place at the Veterans Affairs National Cemetery in Johnson City. And that is the number of wreaths that the Rolling Thunder Chapter 4 would like to be able to place on each gravestone at the site.
“I know that is a rather ambitious goal to say that we would love to have the cemetery covered with wreaths, but in fact, that is what we would love to have,” Rolling Thunder Chapter 4 Chairman Bob Rambo said.
Four years ago the local Rolling Thunder chapter got involved with Wreaths Across America and during the first year they were only able to place 400 wreaths. Last year, they surpassed 6,000 and Rambo hopes that number will continue to grow.
However, that can’t happen without the help of the public. Wreaths are $15 and they are 100 percent tax deductible.
Trucks should arrive around Dec. 15 and the wreaths will then be placed on the graves by local boy scout and girl scout troops. And there is a particular way that the children place the wreaths on the graves before they back up two paces and salute that grave.
“It’s done with reverence and respect and it works out beautifully,” Rambo said. “It’s very touching and it’s very beautiful when we get these wreaths laid out.”
The group is still less than a quarter away from getting to their goal for this year, but Rambo is hopeful that will change.
“The response has been slow but I know that it is coming,” he said. “I’ve invited every church in the area to try and help or anyone that can possibly help to make sure that every veteran has a wreath on their grave.”
The checks have to be in-hand by Thanksgiving, that way Rambo can send the checks to Wreaths Across America and they know how many to send.
Wreath Across America was started in 1992 when Worcester Wreath, in Harrington Maine, found themselves with a surplus of wreaths.
That gave Morrill Worcester a thought – take the wreaths to Arlington National Cemetery to honor the fallen soldiers. That is exactly what he did. From that the company was born and every year since, it has grown.
Worcester’s wife, Karen, who is the Executive Director of Wreaths Across America said that placing wreaths on graves isn’t just decoration.
“We are not here to ‘decorate graves.’ We’re here to remember not their deaths, but their lives,” she said in a press release.
For more information contact Bob Rambo at 423-276-8368 or Bill Hunt at 423-833-2861. Or you can make checks payable to Wreaths Across America and mail it to PO Box 220 Mountain Home, TN, 37684.