The Killeen Special Events Center had an air of festivity Saturday as hundreds of people fluffed wreaths and placed bows on them while Christmas music blared through speakers that resonated throughout the building.

All wreaths were then placed back on two trailers to wait to be placed next Saturday at the grave of every veteran and family member at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery.

Among those who helped Saturday were about six Scouts and three adult volunteers of Boy Scout Troop 287 from Killeen.

“It helps the Scouts to pay back the community, to pay respect to our veterans and do good for the community, said Jeff Pace, the parent coordinator for the troop.

Not only does the event help them pay respects to the community and veterans who have passed, it helps them with advancement within the Boy Scouts as well.

“Actually volunteer hours are part of requirements for a merit badge and rank,” Pace said, adding that the troop has been involved with wreath prep and wreath laying for about six years.

The wreath laying tradition began in 2007. Jean Shine, who owns Shine Team Realty in Harker Heights, started Wreaths For Vets, a nonprofit organization, after beginning the wreath laying 14 years ago.

What started with around 100 wreaths has grown to more than 12,000. Shine said the group is also in search of a new trailer to store the wreaths, as the two it has are completely full.

Also helping at the wreath prep were members of the Harker Heights High School JROTC and the Harker Heights High School girls volleyball and track and field teams as well as a few clubs from Copperas Cove High School.

Copperas Cove resident and former III Corps and Fort Hood Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis Webster said it is good to see high school students involved.

“It’s great,” he said. “I mean, my grandson is here and he’s out of high school now, but he’s helping his old friends. But it’s good to see the young people learn service.”

Webster, who retired as the senior enlisted soldier of Fort Hood in 2002, was helping prep the wreaths with the Copperas Cove High HOSA Club and the Copperas Cove High Criminal Justice Club.

Volunteers are always needed to help lay the wreaths at the veterans cemetery. It begins at 10 a.m. next Saturday. Volunteers are encouraged to use the park-and-ride system from Texas A&M University-Central Texas. Shuttle service to and from the cemetery begins at 8 a.m. and runs until noon.

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