JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville nonprofit Wreaths Across America wants to place 10,400 wreaths on the headstones of fallen veterans for the holidays, but they're a little short, and they're asking for the community's help.
The deadline is approaching to sponsor a wreath ahead of the Dec. 15 ceremony at Jacksonville National Cemetery, and the organization is a little less than 2,000 wreaths short of its goal.
Each headstone at the cemetery on Lannie Road represents a life of service, and Wreaths Across America wants to remember all of those lives in a wreath-laying ceremony next month.
"Our statement is, 'Remember, honor, and teach.' For someone who didn't serve in the military as myself, I feel that this is a way I can serve those who have served,” said Michael Smith, volunteer location coordinator with Wreaths Across America.
Smith shared photographs of wives, children and other loved ones with their loved one's remembrance wreath.
"When you go and watch the families take their time to walk over to their loved one's headstone, it means a lot to me because I work 365 days to get this,” Smith said.
It means a lot to Steven Spickelmier, as well. He's the chairman of the support committee for the cemetery. He recognizes several names on the headstones, including a friend of 35 years.
"He's buried out here, and I spent so much time with him. We shared many stories together,” Spickelmier said. “Every time I come out here, I think of him. And I do visit him."
Stories like this are why both men are pushing for the community's help to reach the 10,400-wreath goal.
The deadline to sponsor wreaths by mail is Nov. 30. To sponsor online, the deadline is Dec. 3.
On Dec. 13-14 between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m., loved ones can pick up a small flag at the cemetery to place on a veteran's headstone to indicate the family will lay their own wreath on Dec. 15. For headstones without a flag, volunteers will lay wreaths during the ceremony, which begins at 11:45 a.m. Dec. 15.
Participants should arrive by 10 a.m. to park. General parking will be at Anheuser Busch Neutra Turf Plant at Lannie and Lem Turner roads.
Fore more information on the ceremony or sponsoring a wreath, go to http://wreathsacrossamericajacksonville.com.