MEIGS COUNTY — On Saturday, volunteers came together to place wreaths on over 2,000 Veterans graves in Meigs County as part of Wreaths Across America. The laying of wreaths in December to honor Veterans had its beginnings in Arlington National Cemetery and is now a nationwide effort.
The laying of wreaths is carried out by volunteers, and sponsored by donations from individuals and business. Craig Matheny established Wreath Adventures, LLC to manage funds for the
Wreaths event in Meigs and Athens counties in 2019 after organizing multiple trips with people from around the area to lay wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery.
In 2020, the Wreath Adventures program laid wreaths in Meigs County at Reedsville Cemetery, Eden/Randolph Cemetery, Tuppers Plains Cemetery, and Meigs Memory Gardens. This year wreaths will also be placed in Letart, Miles, Gilmore, Heiney, and Chester cemeteries.
Loyalty is Forever organizer Lori Miller was responsible for managing the delivery of the wreaths, and said Shade River Agricultural Service in Chester saved the day with their assistance in unloading the boxes that had been delivered by Wreaths Across America. They placed the boxes onto a trailer that Miller could then use to distribute the wreaths to the designated cemeteries.
”Managing a delivery of 2,300 wreaths is not for the faint at heart,” Miller said. “They saved the day with the use of their semi-trailer, fork lift, and parking lot.”
In each location, a Wreaths Across American Ceremony honoring the branches of the US Military and Prisoners of War was part of the observance. This included wreaths for each: POW, Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, Merchant Marines, and Space Force. At the conclusion, hundreds of volunteers began locating and laying wreaths on the veteran’s graves.
Following are some of the day’s highlights:
Letart Cemetery was added this year due to the efforts of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9053 in partnership with Wreath Adventures, LLC. VFW Post 9053 Charlie Mugrage and his wife Peach, a member of the Post Auxiliary, spearheaded the effort, first counting the graves, the initial step for including a cemetery into the Wreath project. Once they had the total, fundraising efforts began, and all the wreaths had been paid for by the time of the ceremony.
The Mugrages and Post 9053 credit community and volunteer efforts, and said approximately 40 volunteers participated in laying the wreaths on the graves of service members from the Revolutionary War to the present.
Peach Mugrage gave the opening remarks of the Wreath Ceremony: “We want to thank you all for coming and helping us Honor our Military heroes, and give a special thank you to Craig Matheny for establishing Wreath Adventure and making today possible.”
Post 9053 Chaplin Randy Reiber offered a tribute: “We are here assembled to pay a lasting tribute of respect to our departed comrades. When the call of our country was heard, our comrades answered; self was forgotten in the cause of the greater good. As brave persons, they marched away with an abiding faith in God, country, and flag.”
Reiber also led the group in prayer, and asked for blessing of freedom, peace and righteousness for our nation.
In Rutland, Mayor Tyler Eblin and Township Trustee Joe Bolin participated in ceremonies and the laying at 275 wreaths in Miles Cemetery. The Daughters of the American Revolution was also represented by Return Jonathan Meigs Chapter Regent Gina Tillis.
Mayor Eblin said, “I had the honor of joining Rutland Township Trustee Joe Bolin in participating in a Wreath Placement Ceremony held by Wreath Adventures, a local organization with a mission dedicated to commemorating our fallen veterans through the decoration of their graves with wreaths.”
During their ceremony, Mayor Eblin presented a proclamation commemorating “the great efforts of Wreath Adventures and its donors and volunteers in honoring our local servicemen and women.”
American Legion Post 39 conducted a ceremony at Memory Gardens in Pomeroy. Post 39 Auxiliary President JoAnn Newstrome, who was tasked with the wreath effort at this location, said the group placed 380 wreaths. They were assisted on Saturday by Girl Scout Troop 51004 and many other volunteers who came participate.
Organizers said the yearlong effort brought to fruition on Saturday was a success thanks to the many volunteers and donations. Their efforts for 2022 have already begun, and they encourage community participation, from donating funds, to counting graves, fundraising, and finally wreath placement.
Part 2, which will appear in a later edition, will highlight the Wreaths Across America efforts of students in the Meigs area.
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Lorna Hart is a freelance writer for Ohio Valley Publishing.