Veterans buried in Kilbourne’s Green Mound Cemetery will be honored this month as part of the national Wreaths Across America program.
On Saturday, Dec. 16, a public ceremony will be held at 11 a.m., and wreaths will be placed on the graves of the approximately 246 veterans buried in the cemetery. The wreaths, which cost $19 each, have been sponsored by various members of the Kilbourne community. In total, the campaign raised approximately $4,000 needed to supply a wreath for every grave.
Wreaths Across America began in 1992 when Worcester, Maine-based Worcester Wreath Company took its surplus of holiday wreaths to Arlington National Cemetery in Washington D.C., and placed them on some of the oldest, rarely-visited graves in the cemetery.
In the two decades since the original ceremony, the program has grown to honor deceased veterans in all corners of the country thanks to its vast network of volunteers and organizers. Last year, the program estimated to have placed more than 2.7 million sponsored veterans’ wreaths on headstones at 3,702 participating locations.
Reggie Langford, a Kilbourne native who now resides on Catawba Island, has spearheaded the initiative to honor veterans buried in Green Mound Cemetery. He began his work with Wreaths Across America more than a decade ago in Port Clinton, Ohio. He has continued to see great success with the program there, leading to the idea of doing something similar in his hometown.
“The reason I want to do it in my hometown is because when I was in high school, I mowed grass there,” Langford told The Gazette. “My grandparents are buried there, my parents are buried there, and so are my friends. I just wanted to give back to the community by starting up this Wreaths Across America campaign, and it’s really started rolling pretty well.”
Langford said he didn’t like the idea of some veterans’ graves receiving wreaths from individual sponsors while others lay bare, so he wanted to ensure every grave was recognized. “To me, that wouldn’t be fair, so we have to do this for everybody,” he said.
The campaign has been so well received that there were extra wreaths available that will be placed on veterans’ graves in the nearby Old Eden Cemetery in Kilbourne.
A Vietnam War veteran who received the Purple Heart after being wounded on Feb. 7, 1965, in Pleiku, Vietnam, Langford said it brings him tremendous pride to see his community rally around its fallen heroes. The initiative holds personal significance to Langford as his dad, a World War II veteran, and friends who were in the service are buried in Green Mound Cemetery.
In addition to leading the wreath campaign, Langford noticed Green Mound Cemetery didn’t have a proper flag pole to fly the American flag. Once again taking matters into his own hands, Langford purchased the pole himself and had it installed at the front of the cemetery, along with a light to shine on the flag. The wreath-laying ceremony will be held at the flag pole and will include a rifle volley as well as the signing of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
“It’s a symbol of these veterans not being forgotten, as well as a love for country,” Langford later said of the ceremony.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.