Wreaths Across America is Saturday

Published 9:48 pm Tuesday, December 15, 2020

By HUNTER CLOUD

The Natchez Democrat

NATCHEZ — For the past 14 years volunteers have laid wreaths on veterans’ graves in Natchez each December through a national non-profit Wreaths Across America.

This year Wreaths Across America will lay wreaths at Greenlawn Memorial Park and Natchez National Cemetery and the separate Wreaths Across America ceremonies will begin at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 19.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, however, the ceremonies will not be open to the public at either Greenlawn or the Natchez National Cemetery.

Greenlawn’s Director Page Brown said people who sponsered a wreath will be able to pick up wreaths at the main office to place them on their loved one’s graves.

“Because of the way we are spread out they will be able to place a wreath on their loved ones’ grave,” Brown said. “But we are going to do a drive through to pick up their wreaths and then they will go to their space. We will have volunteers to place those if they don’t have somebody to place them.”

People wanting to order a wreath to honor a loved one can still call Greenlawn at 601-442-6103. Brown said she orders extra wreaths for those late orders.

Brown said her grandfather, uncle and her husband all served in the military, so she takes pride in honoring veterans.

At Greenlawn approximately 800 graves out of approximately 5,000 graves are veterans, Brown said, adding more than 50 wreaths have already been paid for. For the event Greenlawn will have a ceremonial wreath with flags from each service branch and they will read out names of those who have been sponsored.

Only a private ceremony will be held at Natchez National Cemetery where volunteers will be able to attend prior to laying wreaths on the graves. Coordinator of the Wreaths Across America at Natchez National Cemetery Mark LaFrancis said their goal is to decorate the graves of the 8,000 veterans buried there.

Money raised from the wreaths go to Home with Heroes. LaFrancis said 30% of the $15 wreaths will go to the Home with Heroes efforts to provide veterans and their families clothes. Their clothes bank is on the second floor of the VFW building.

The ceremony will last about 20 minutes and then volunteers will go to different sections of the cemeteries and place the wreaths. LaFrancis said 650 wreaths are sponsored this year, down from last year’s 950 wreaths.

LaFrancis said organizers did not press businesses to sponsor wreaths this year because the businesses have been struggling through the COVID-19 pandemic. Those who would like to sponsor a wreath may call LaFrancis at 601-597-4268.

A retired veteran, LaFrancis had a father and a grandfather who also served in the Military. For the past eight years LaFrancis has been involved in Wreaths Across America.  Until the big day it is all just paper work and an idea LaFrancis said.

“Until the wreaths arrive it is not as real. When they do, it is exciting,” LaFrancis said. “It is reverential. It is patriotic. There is a sense that whoever is there, that this is important to set aside time during the busy christmas season to do something to honor those people who served our country.”