By Desiree Johnson

Killeen Daily Herald

The Central Texas area is constantly working to make sure soldiers in the area get the recognition they deserve. This year, the Friends of Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery have come together to make sure soldiers lost in action receive recognition during the holiday season, too.

More than 15 years ago, the Worcester Wreath Company began a tradition of placing a Christmas wreath on each headstone at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, D.C.

The tradition of recognizing the Nation's fallen heroes caught on, and since then the company has donated 75,000 wreaths in their Wreaths Across America program.

The company even expanded the program to include cemeteries across the country, donating seven wreaths: one for Prisoners of War, one for those Missing in Action, and one for each branch of military service.

When those wreaths reached the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery, the inspiration hit to organize a way for every headstone to have a wreath. Harker Heights businesswoman Jean Shine worked to attain 400 wreaths for veteran gravesites and this year she and her group of organizers hope to have even more: an ultimate goal of 1,000 wreaths.

"Christmas is the most lonely time of the year for those missing family and friends," said Steve Cole, who is helping coordinate a fundraiser to support the effort. "What soldiers do is selfless and all soldiers need to know that America appreciates what you do. It's just a thank you for those who gave so much."

The result is the inaugural Ride for Wreaths event, sponsored by local businesses. The event invites local motorcycle enthusiasts to ride in a Charity Dart Run, with registration fees being donated toward purchasing wreaths.

"It's a way to remember what the veterans gave," said event organizer Sam Murphey. "We definitely want to do this every year. We say we're going to take care of our soldiers for life, but we mean eternally, really."

At the event, participants can purchase T-shirts and join in all the fun of drawings, auctions, food and a performance from the band Wild Horses. It's an opportunity to give back and have fun at the same time.

Sponsoring a wreath "is not a hard thing to do," Cole said. "And it just feels right."

Ride for Wreaths will be on Nov. 10 at the Killeen Civic and Conference Center, at 3601 South W.S. Young Drive. Registration is at 9 a.m., costs $20 per person, and the first 300 get a free T-shirt.

For more information about the event, contact Sam Murphey at (254) 702-0222 or Steve Cole at For more information on Wreaths Across America, including how to sponsor a wreath online, check out the organization's Web site at

Contact Desiree Johnson at or call (254) 501-7559

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