KILLEEN — More than 800 volunteers descended upon the Killeen Special Events Center on Saturday to prepare about 7,000 holiday wreaths for the annual Wreaths for Vets event.
The wreaths are laid at the grave site of every veteran interred at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery to honor the men and women buried there, said Jean Shine, civilian aid to the Secretary of the Army and president of the Friends of Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery.
The ceremony to lay the wreaths is scheduled for 10 a.m. at the cemetery on Saturday. They will remain on display until the second Saturday of January when volunteers will retrieve them. Parking is expected to be at a premium, so all volunteers are asked to park at Texas A&M University-Central Texas, where buses will be on hand to shuttle them to the cemetery.
“There are 7,000 (veterans) buried there, but there are some areas where we can’t put a wreath where we’ll have to just put one wreath down for a multitude,” Shine said. “We’ll be leaving an extra 100 wreaths there for those who will be buried there during December.”
Volunteers of all ages and came from across the Greater Fort Hood Area came to lend a hand in unpacking, inspecting and “fluffing” the wreaths. Cheerleaders from Killeen High School and Ellison High School, although rivals, even teamed up to ensure the event was a success.
“We’re here to show our support, to show that we respect our veterans and that our two different schools can come together to support our community,” said Ellison High School senior Kamariah Bradley, who has been volunteering for the event since her freshman year.
Kristina McCormack, a senior at Killeen High School, said she was out there to honor her father.
“My dad is soon to be a veteran, and I was raised as a military child, so showing support is what we always want to do for our veterans,” she said.
The Friends intend to step up their fundraising in the future to account not only for additional costs, but for anticipated growth in the number of veterans who will be buried there, Shine said. Costs have begun to rise to put the event on because the organization is now having to pay for items that once were donated, such as the brochures they put out and for police assistance in controlling traffic at the cemetery.
“My husband said, ‘We have to plan for the future,’ and I said that we wouldn’t be there — we’ll be buried there,” she said. “He said, ‘That’s why we have to plan for the future.’ It’s thinking of the big picture.”
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