Arkansas veterans honored with wreath laying ceremony

Melissa Zygowicz covers the wreath ceremony

NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) – Veteran cemeteries across America placed wreaths on the gravesites of our veterans Saturday.

At the Arkansas State Veterans Cemetery at North Little Rock, no veteran was left behind as hundreds of volunteers laid out more than eight thousand wreaths. 

"It's honor, respect. These are the ones that gave their all for our freedom,” volunteer Bettye Daley said. "It's heartwarming. It's good to see our country pull together as one."

Daley retired from the Marine Corp. recruiting after 32 years. Her husband is also a veteran. She said she had no choice but to come and help Saturday.

"It should be an honor for everybody to come out here and do it. Whether they have anybody in the service or not,” she said.

The cemetery instructed volunteers to lay the wreath in front of the tomb, say the veteran’s name, salute and say a small prayer.

“The sacrifice they gave we should never forget. And this is just a time of honor,” Daley said.

Cynde Maddox is a part of the Arkansas State Veterans Cemetery Beautification Foundation. She played a big role in making sure no veteran was left behind.

"For what they've given us, this is a very small token for what we can do to remember their service,” Maddox said.

She said when the committee came together in September, it was not sure if it would have enough money to buy a wreath for every veteran.

According to Maddox, it would have cost over $100,000 to buy eight thousand wreaths.

“We looked around the state at what other North Veterans Cemetery were doing,” she said. "Fort Smith has a non-profit organization that does it called Christmas Honors.”

Luckily, the nonprofit had a few left over wreaths to spare.

“We heard through a friend that they had an abundance of wreaths and they offered us 6,000 wreaths at 6,000 dollars. A dollar a wreath,” Maddox said.

The cemetery saved over $90,000, thanks to the nonprofit.

The remaining money that originally was going to go to purchasing the wreaths will now go toward helping veterans across the state.

"No veteran should be forgotten. Everybody that serves in the military, no matter what branch or how long they served, they all gave back to their country, and that's the important thing,” Maddox said.

Maddox said the artificial wreaths should last each Christmas for the next five years.

“Everybody has asked me today is this going to continue every year? Absolutely. As long as I’m alive,” she said.

While these fallen veterans are gone forever, they most definitely are not forgotten this Christmas.

"Just looking across this grave site just makes my heart swell with pride. I knew we would have support, but I just never knew how massive it would be…and how proud Arkansas was to give back to their veterans,” Maddox said.

Families of Muslim or Jewish faith had the option to not have a wreath placed next to their loved ones. 
            
The wreaths will be up until the end of December.

© 2018 KTHV-TV


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