JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Every year, thousands head out to the Jacksonville National Cemetery and lay wreaths at the headstones of fallen heroes. For many, it’s one of the most moving holiday experiences. Kellina Featheringill, location coordinator for Wreaths Across America at Jacksonville National Cemetery, loves sharing the organization’s mission with the public.
“I love when I ask somebody, “Do you know what Wreaths Across America is?’ And they go, ‘no’...I get to tell them and share a little bit about what we do,” Featheringill said. “Why it’s important to me, why it’s so close to my heart.”
“We honor their name and their legacy and we teach our younger generation what they gave up and why we have what we have today,” Featheringill added.
That’s where “Wreaths Across America’s” traveling exhibit comes in. Inside is a 20-seat movie theater sharing the organization’s history. There’s a live video feed broadcast outside. The mobile unit travels all over the country to teach people about the work being done to honor veterans and to give a first-hand account of what it’ll be like to deliver 2.5 million wreaths on Dec. 19 this year.
“It’s a wonderful experience with a video, lots of history to learn,” Featheringill said. “I say bring your kids out. If you think you know Wreaths Across America, you’ll learn more.”
On Saturday, families were able to visit it at the St. Johns Town Center. On Sunday, the display was off of Blanding Boulevard on the Westside.
The event was open to the public with social distancing, sanitation and COVID-19 safety procedures in place, including requiring masks be worn.
“Bringing them to this site not to be sad about it, but to honor and respect... and learn the history of where this came from and why we do this in order to honor them,” Featheringill.
This comes at a time when Wreaths Across America at Jacksonville National Cemetery is in need of help. Featheringill says COVID-19 has slowed down fundraising efforts. To meet this year’s goal, the organization needs bout 8,000 more wreath donations. The deadline for donating is Nov. 30, 2020.
“It really has set us back. It’s been about three months since we’ve been able to get our feet back on the ground and get fundraising efforts together, so it’s very vital that people donate now -- that they don’t wait until December when the time comes,” Featheringill said.
The mobile education exhibit was at the St. Johns Town Center Mission BBQ from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday.
Close to 50 motorcycle riders came out to the mobile unit Saturday, organizing a charity ride to help out WAA.
“Every time there is something that they need, especially for the military and their families, we’ll be there,” said Roy Rodriguez, business manager for Lama Jax Beach.
“Veterans hold a special place in my heart and to be able to decorate the tombstones of all those heroes is the minimum I can do,” said Denny Luke, American Legion 5th district chairman.
On Sunday, the exhibit was at the restaurant’s Blanding Boulevard location from 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Overall, the goal is to honor, respect and inspire many for years to come. People can donate online to help “Wreaths Across America at Jacksonville National Cemetery” meet its financial goals for the year.