On motorcycle or not, the community is invited to participate in the annual Ride for Veterans Wreaths fundraiser, set to roll through Killeen on Saturday.

The event raises money to put wreaths on graves at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery in Killeen during the holiday season.

Last year’s ride raised about $7,000 for replacing old wreaths and buying new ones for new graves, said Sonja Skinner, chairwoman of the ride, hosted by the Friends of the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery. There are about 3,700 graves and the nonprofit strives to put a wreath on each one.

“It’s also really helping to raise awareness for the event itself,” said Skinner, referring to the Saturday before Thanksgiving when volunteers prepare the wreaths and the following Saturday when they lay them on the graves.

Last year about 300 riders participated in the ride, which begins and ends at the Horny Toad Harley-Davidson in Temple.

For the first time, the stop at the cemetery will feature a guest speaker so area residents who don’t participate in the ride can still come out and show support, said Jean Shine, president of the organization.

Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Neil Ciotola, former III Corps and Fort Hood command sergeant major, will speak.

“We’d love everybody to come join us for the ride,” Shine said. “We have to remember that the veterans cemetery is very special to us and all of Central Texas. It’s the only one between San Antonio and Dallas.”

Once the ride returns to Horny Toad in Temple, there will be a barbecue lunch from Big Hoss and live music from the band Pride and Joy. A grill will be raffled off and other door prizes will be available.

“We want to pledge to do this every year, so it does take a lot of funds, a lot of volunteers and a lot of donations,” Shine said. “Everything is done by donations. It is 100 percent funded by the community and the people of America.”

Contact Rose L. Thayer at rthayer@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7463. Follow her on Twitter at KDHmilitary.

Rose L. Thayer is the military editor for the Killeen Daily Herald. She joined the paper in February 2011 as a health and military reporter. View her complete profile Here.

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