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Group raises money for program honoring deceased vets

At right, living veterans snap a salute to honor their brothers and sisters who have passed on before them. This year’s wreath-laying ceremony will take place at 11:30 a.m. Dec. 11.

In December, for the third year, the Horton Wreath Society will lay wreaths tied with red bows at the headstone of each grave at the Albert G. Horton Jr. Memorial Veterans Cemetery.

The only factor that will change is the number of headstones.

The society held its kick-off meeting on Friday to begin collecting donations to place wreaths at the more than 3,000 graves on Dec. 11.

“What we do is just a gift of love and appreciation for our soldiers and their families,” committee member Jeanne Banks said. “Freedom isn’t free, and this is the least of the gifts we can offer as our thanks.”

The first year the committee placed the wreaths, there were 1,500 graves.

Last year, there were 2,400.

“It’s heartbreaking to see the increase of graves each year, especially when you see how many parents are burying their veteran children,” Banks said.

At $7.50 apiece, with no corporate or individual sponsors, it is no small task to raise the money.

“We work with some great businesses who are able to give us the products at cost, but it takes some work,” Banks said. “Some people might think the wreaths are all donated, like Arlington’s are, but they’re not. All the contributions we receive are from individual people who respect the military and appreciate what they’ve done.”

The society depends almost entirely on word of mouth and on its own efforts to raise the funds each year.

The veterans’ family members make it clear that the hard work is appreciated.

“Everyone is most appreciative to know that their loved ones are still honored,” Banks said. “The final ceremony is quite impressive and always worth the effort.”

An account has already been opened to receive any donated funds. Contributions can be sent to SunTrust Bank, 123 Main St., Suffolk, VA 23434. Checks can be made out to the Horton Wreath Society.

“I believe enough people in this area have been touched by the work of a veteran,” Banks said. “Every penny of the funds goes to honor these retired and active-duty veterans buried here.”

The wreaths will be placed at the cemetery on Dec. 11 beginning at 9:30 a.m. A special wreath-laying service also will be held at the cemetery at 11:30 a.m. that day and is open to the public.