A new holiday tradition

Published 9:01 pm Monday, November 23, 2015

An area nonprofit society is recruiting volunteers to help lay Christmas wreaths on more than 7,000 graves of deceased military members next month in Suffolk’s Albert G. Horton Jr. Memorial Veterans Cemetery.

The Horton Wreath Society — an organization committed to adorning every grave in the state-run veterans’ cemetery with a live evergreen wreath — will spend Dec. 12 placing the wreaths at the cemetery.

The wreath-laying event is one of a pair of emotional annual events that take place at the Horton cemetery each year. The other is the Memorial Day program that features thousands of flags planted in front of each of the tombstones around the facility.

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Both events are visual spectacles, but they’re so much more than that. They’re opportunities to honor those who have served our nation in war and peace, many having made the greatest sacrifice while doing so. They’re opportunities for new generations to learn about the cost of freedom and about those who paid that price. They’re opportunities to connect with history.

Teaching young people about military history is an important part of the Horton Wreath Society’s mission. During the Dec. 12 event, children who come to help lay wreaths will be paired with retired members of the military, who will help the kids learn to interpret the designations on the headstones and tell them a little about the wars and the branches of the armed services that are represented at Horton.

The program will kick off with the laying of the ceremonial row of wreaths at 9 a.m. Then at 10 a.m., those with relatives interred in Horton will have the opportunity to place wreaths on their family members’ graves.

Then the general wreath placements by veterans, military, fraternal organizations, Scout troops and other volunteers will begin. Volunteers are not required to sign up in advance, but they can do so at www.hortonwreathsociety.webs.com. Individuals and groups are encouraged to help.

The wreath society will hold a formal ceremony once the last wreath has been placed. The ceremony will include a guest speaker, music and a final procession.

By the end of the day, each grave at the Horton cemetery will have a wreath. The effect is incredibly moving. Even more moving, though, is the effect helping with the project has on the volunteers involved each year. If you’re looking for a new holiday tradition for your family, it would be hard to find one more worthy.