JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Thousands of people visited the Jacksonville National Cemetery on Saturday to lay wreaths on the headstones of veterans.
The annual Wreaths Across America event honored veterans at more than 2,000 cemeteries across the country.
Every one of the 11,800 headstones at the Jacksonville National Cemetery was adorned with a wreath honoring the service member’s sacrifice.
Bob Willen, a volunteer coordinator with Wreaths Across America in Jacksonville, said 100% of the wreaths were donated by the community.
“It’s a way to honor the veterans and their families that sacrificed and gave their lives for our country,” said Willen, who is a veteran himself and said the day is always an emotional one.
Gordon Reynolds, who was a staff sergeant in the U.S. Air Force from 1952 to 1956, said he was moved to see the turnout, especially during the current political climate.
“It’s heartwarming, in this time when the country is so divided, this many people are here, not only here, but all over the U.S. and in those cemeteries in foreign countries where we have loved ones buried,” Reynolds said. “When you look around and you see the number of youth here, small ones, grade school, high school. This is history maybe they don’t teach in school anymore. They’re out here learning history.”
Ryan Hopkins, 13, said Reynolds was right about that.
“My grandpa and great-grandpa are both laid out here, and I come to salute them and thank them for their service. I never got to meet them,” said Hopkins, who is with Boy Scouts Troop 653.
Despite not meeting them, Ryan said he will never forget them.
“It’s very emotional for me,” he said. “When I first went over there, I started crying early. It means a lot to me to see all the people come out.”