Winds gusted at 10-20 miles per hour as Young Miss Five Hills Angelica Torres kneeled and pulled the metal pin that adhered an evergreen wreath in front of a soldier’s grave. As the winds whipped through the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery, Torres said a prayer not only for the soldier in the grave who was being honored but also said a prayer for her father, a Purple Heart recipient.

“It’s an honor because they gave the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. Just small things like this show our gratitude,” Torres said. “It also hits home for me being a daughter of a wounded warrior knowing that it could be my dad’s grave in the cemetery.”

The titleholders joined hundreds of volunteers on Sunday to help retrieve more than 8,000 wreaths from the graves. The wreath retrieval is the final of three acts the royalty participated in to honor veterans throughout the holiday season.

Preteen Miss Five Hills Kaydence Roberts is the daughter of an active-duty service member and granddaughter of veterans.

“Picking up the wreaths to be stored for next year was just as important to me as when we laid the wreaths on the graves in November,” Roberts said. “It allowed us another day to honor and pay our respects to those who served our country.”

Junior Miss Five Hills Hayley Sawyer and the royalty helped fluff the wreaths and adhere the bows prior to Thanksgiving, laid the wreaths after Thanksgiving and retrieved the wreaths on Sunday.

“Helping with each part of the Central Texas wreath project meant so much to me to be able to honor our fallen soldiers and their families,” Sawyer said. “With my father being a retired veteran and my brother being active duty, I know exactly how important it is to make sure we show how much we appreciate their sacrifices.”

This is the third year that Five Hills Ambassador Briana Liles helped with all three segments of the Wreaths for Vets project.

“These veterans served our country allowing me and my family to rest easy knowing our country is protected,” Liles said. “This is the least we can do to show her appreciation for all they have done for us.”

It was the first year for Ms. Five Hills Lorianne Valois to participate in the wreath project.

“It’s a true honor, especially during the holiday season, to be able to serve people who sacrificed their lives for our freedom,” Valois said.

Miniature Miss Five Hills Autumn Munoz and her mother, Shana Heikken, worked together to remove the wreaths.

“I told her those were soldiers and family members that served for our country just as her papa is doing and her father did,” Heikken said.

Little Mister Five Hills Noah Spitzer said it is important to honor our veterans because they paid the ultimate sacrifice for our country.

“They showed selfless service, bravery and courage and that deserves our recognition and respect as Americans,” Spitzer said. “Our Veterans must not be forgotten and it’s my duty to do my part. Retrieving the wreaths is a small way to show our appreciation and respect to our veterans.”

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