As the Christmas season comes back around, so does the opportunity to remember those who are no longer able to celebrate.
The annual Wreaths Across America project will return to Wayne County Dec. 16, as friends and family of deceased veterans join with other volunteers to place wreaths on the graves of fallen veterans at cemeteries across the county.
Founded in 2005 and brought to Wayne County by Emily Tucker in 2012, the event is now run by Tawnya Tucker, Emily Tucker's mother. Wreaths Across America will take place at Evergreen Cemetery beginning at noon, with an opening ceremony including Mayor Chuck Allen and representatives from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base. From there, everyone in attendance will be able to place a wreath on a grave, be it a friend, family member or someone of no relation at all.
Tucker said that her goal this year is to place 1,000 wreaths throughout the county. She is about 100 wreaths behind that so far in terms of pre-registers, and is still looking for people to volunteer. Participants are not all required to pre-register, but anyone looking to place a wreath on a specific grave does need to sign up.
Tucker said the growth of Wreaths Across America is encouraging.
"If we hit 1,000 wreaths, it will be about 400 more than we did last year," she said. "Last year, Wreaths Across America placed one million wreaths nationwide and in American cemeteries overseas."
A small ceremony at the Eastern Carolina State Veterans Cemetery at 164 Long's Plant Farm Road will follow the main event at Evergreen. Tucker said it is unlikely that there will be enough wreaths there to support a large crowd like the one expected at Evergreen, and a time for the second ceremony has not been set.
Tucker said that Wreaths Across America is also a good fundraising opportunity for church groups, Scout troops and other such organizations.
"Wreath sponsorships are $15, and for each sponsorship that a group has, the Wreaths Across America headquarters will give them back five dollars," she said. "So if they can go and collect money for sponsorships, they get a check sent directly to them."
Anyone interested in fundraising, volunteering or wreath sponsorship can contact Tucker at 919-920-2960. Donation or sponsorship checks can be made payable to Wreaths Across America and sent to 204 Creekside Drive, Goldsboro, NC, 27534.
Tucker said she hopes to see the same kind of strong turnout the event has become known for.
"With everyone's help in the community, " we can make this something truly special," she said.