Wreaths for Vets Thanks Volunteers

Helen Purser, right, is given a certificate of appreciation by Friends of the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery president Jean Shine at an appreciation ceremony Wednesday evening, May 10, 2017 at the group's monthly meeting. Volunteers of the group's annual Wreaths for Veterans program accepted certificates and Wreaths for Vets coins at the Yowell Business Center in Killeen.

Amy Proctor | Herald

KILLEEN — The Friends of the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery held a meeting on May 10 to thank their volunteers who participate in the annual Wreath for Vets program at the Central Texas State Cemetery. The Wednesday evening event was held in the Yowell Business Center in Killeen.

“These are the backbone of our community. These are people that serve all around the community and have for years,” said Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery President Jean Shine of the organization’s volunteers and advisors. “They have so much on their plate to do, so we really appreciate that they take time to help us.”

The Wreaths for Vets program relies on volunteers to organize and help lay Christmas wreaths on the more than 6,000 graves in the Central Texas State on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and then to retrieve them in January. The effort is to honor each of the veterans and their spouses laid to rest in the cemetery.

Eric Brown, serving as Deputy Director for the Texas State Veterans Cemeteries since August 2013, was the guest speaker at the meeting. Brown praised The Friends of the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery and its services to local veterans, especially the Unaccompanied Veterans Program.

“Unaccompanied (veterans) are not alone because you bring them back home,” Brown said. “I had no idea the depth of it until I got immersed into the program. It’s just amazing.”

The Unaccompanied Veterans Program facilitated by the Friends of the Central Texas State Cemetery helps provide funerals with full military honors at the cemetery for deceased veterans with no family present.

In his comments, Brown also outlined recent improvements and future plans for the veterans cemetery in Killeen. Recent improvements include the elimination of a veteran’s spouse burial fee, extended hours in the cemetery, an increased social media presence, upgraded Texas state veterans cemetery websites, a designated, safe turning lane into the Central Texas Veterans Cemetery from the high speed traffic along Texas-195 E. and the creation of the Unaccompanied Veterans Program.

Funding approved by the state for 2017 include improved wheel chair access, more walkways, additional and improved landscaping, the construction of a memorial wall in a new garden area, shelters in the cemetery and more.

For more information or to volunteer, visit http://www.wreathsforvets.org/.

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