Members of Grace Christian Center, Killeen, wore matching blue t-shirts as they retrieved wreaths from graves at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery on Saturday.

Many of those t-shirts, however, were not visible under layers of sweaters and winter coats.

Temperatures in the low 30s brought out many volunteers wearing knit hats, gloves and scarves wrapped around their mouths for warmth.

Even community liaison Hilary Shine, wearing a hat, hooded jacket and sunglasses, was difficult to recognize as she grabbed a microphone to welcome the hundreds who came to help with the yearly project sponsored by Friends of the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery.

For the members of Grace Christian Center, this was their "Serve Day." Over 700 church members spread out to volunteer for over a dozen projects across Killeen, according to pastor Mark Price.

"It's our way to get warm, get out and service the city," Price said.

Many church members came to the cemetery, even bringing their children, who kept warm by playing games of tag before the wreaths began being collected.

Another way to keep warm was provided by the Knights of Columbus Council 9930 from St. Paul Chong Hasang Church in Harker Heights. The men set up a table and served hot chocolate and coffee to the volunteers.

Veronica Sheon brought members of the Copperas Cove Junior High School National Junior Honor Society to volunteer for the wreath retrieval. Sheon is the group's sponsor.

Her daughter, Julia Sheon, is a Copperas Cove High School sophomore. "It's kind of sad not many people come to this," Julia said.

The number of volunteers may have been half that of the 1,000-plus when the wreaths were laid after Thanksgiving, but their care and concern for the veterans' graves showed through in how they respectfully collected more than 7,000 wreaths, removed the now-faded bows, placed the wreaths on poles and carried them to the trucks where they will be stored until needed again at the end of the year.

Donations toward the 2018 wreath laying can be made at www.wreathsforvets.org.

254-501-7568 | jferraro@kdhnews.com

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