Thousands of evergreens to honor veterans

Published 10:04 pm Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Volunteers carefully unboxed, fluffed and organized thousands of live evergreen wreaths to a soundtrack of Christmas music at the National Guard Armory on Godwin Boulevard Wednesday.

Evergreen smells filled the room as members of the GFWC Junto Woman’s Club in Suffolk, along with many other volunteers, prepared wreaths for the haul out to Albert G. Horton Jr. Memorial Veterans Cemetery. The wreaths will be placed on gravesites at the cemetery on Saturday.

Among the volunteers that assisted on Wednesday were more than 100 Nansemond River High School students, faculty and chaperones, including students with JROTC, Chick-fil-A Leader Academy, DECA, Ladies of Distinction and Majestic Steppers.

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There were also students from Kellam High School in Virginia Beach, and members of the GFWC Great Bridge Woman’s Club in Chesapeake.

Janice Morris, public relations chairman for the Junto Woman’s Club, said both she and her husband came from military families. Her daughter-in-law’s father is buried Albert G. Horton in Suffolk, and several other Junto members have husbands buried in the Suffolk cemetery, as well.

“It’s one way that we can contribute as a group to this function, and also for us, we enjoy working together,” Morris said.

“You get to know the other members,” said President Julie Johnson. “This is what Junto is — it’s to help the community.”

Horton Wreath Society Inc., a nonprofit that raises funds annually to place wreaths at Albert G. Horton Jr. Memorial Veterans Cemetery, ordered approximately 9,500 evergreen wreaths for this year’s wreath-laying.

Two semi-trucks loaded with boxes of wreaths from Worcester Wreath Company in Maine arrived in Suffolk this week, and volunteers Wednesday and Thursday are unpacking and loading them onto a semi-truck and four pup trailers.

The wreaths will be taken to the cemetery on Saturday, escorted by Virginia Patriot Guard and Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association VA 27-1.

Volunteers will return on Thursday to help finish the preparations for the Saturday wreath-laying in “record time,” Horton Wreath Society Inc. President Mike Yarbrough said.

“We’re ahead of schedule. We’re doing well, (and) I couldn’t ask for a better turnout. The kids were energetic, happy. They listened to direction, and they were really great volunteers,” Yarbrough said.

It’s especially important that the younger volunteers are so engaged to assist in the wreath-laying ceremony, and to honor those that made the ultimate sacrifice for their freedoms.

“The purpose of the Horton Wreath Society is to respect, remember and educate,” said Becca Landick, chief executive officer and vice treasurer for Horton Wreath Society Inc. “Remember those who have fallen. Respect their service. Educate our children, our youth — our future generations — as to why we honor those who gave us our freedoms.”

The wreath-laying is a free, public event and will take place Saturday morning at the cemetery, located at 5310 Milners Road in Suffolk. Refreshments will be available from 9 to 11 a.m. during the event.

According to a press release, the event will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday with the ceremonial laying of 25 wreaths on the cemetery’s first row. Family members with interred loved ones will place their wreaths at approximately 9:45 a.m., followed by volunteers laying wreaths on all markers at approximately 10 a.m.

After the last wreath is placed, the Horton Wreath Society will hold a formal ceremony to honor and recognize the sacrifices of military veterans in the cemetery’s committal shelter. The ceremony will feature guest speakers and patriotic music, including the playing of “Taps” and a bagpipe rendition of “Amazing Grace.” The ceremony will conclude at approximately 1 p.m.

While the public is encouraged to attend, there will be no parking at or on the cemetery grounds, the press release states.

A free bus service will be available for volunteers, with satellite parking at King’s Fork High School and overflow parking at King’s Fork Middle School. Buses will begin traveling at 7 a.m. and will continue to run until 2 p.m., to ensure that volunteers are safely returned to their vehicles after the closing ceremony.