Eagle County cemeteries partake in Wreaths across America for the first time
Daughters of American Revolution 10th Mountain chapter brings nationwide event to local cemeteries
Several members of Eagle County resident Mary Ann Baker’s family are buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
Her father, Edmund Koehler Daley Jr., fought for the U.S. Army in the Korean and Vietnam wars. When she saw his grave wrapped in a wreath, surrounded by thousands of others similarly decorated, the image stuck with her.
“It looks like an optical illusion, the way all the graves are decorated,” she said.
Baker is a member of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution’s Eagle County Chapter (called the 10th Mountain Chapter), and began thinking about how the local chapter of the nationwide organization could participate in the National Wreaths Across America event. The event started in 1992 at Arlington; the organization’s mission – remember, honor, teach – is carried out in part each year by coordinating wreath-laying ceremonies at Arlington and, now, thousands of other veterans’ cemeteries across the country. The celebration reached Colorado in 2017 with Kremmling, followed by Georgetown in 2019.
Ricki Shaw Sherlin is a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution’s 10th Mountain Chapter, and had attended the ceremony in Kremmling to help lay wreaths. This year, Sherlin, Baker and others began looking into bringing the idea to Eagle County.
“We hadn’t thought about being accepted to do our own wreath laying, but in October we reached out to Wreaths Across America with the idea to cover the Eagle County cemeteries,” Sherlin said. “We had to come up with a mapping plan so that we know that every veteran will be covered with a wreath.”
Eagle County cemeteries have war veterans dating all the way back to the Civil War.
“We have Gold Star families here, and it’s important to remember them,” Baker said.
Remember, honor, teach
The 10th Mountain Chapter received approval to cover the Minturn, Eagle and Gypsum cemeteries; 275 wreaths were delivered on Friday.
“We were the last cemetery in Colorado to receive our wreaths,” Baker said. “A Colorado State Patrol convoy intercepted the truck and conveyed it to Gypsum.”
Locals sponsored individual wreaths for $15 each.
On Saturday in Gypsum, Baker shared with those in attendance the mission of the Wreaths Across America program, before the names of all the local veterans were read.
“This year, across the country at more than 2,200 participating locations like this one, there are millions of Americans gathering together safely as one nation to remember, honor and teach,” she said from Gypsum on Saturday. “Today, we show a united front of gratitude and respect across the United States of America as we remember the fallen, honor those who serve and their families, and teach the next generation the value of freedom.”
And then, on cue, as the ceremony was wrapping up in Gypsum, a bald eagle flew over the crowd.
“It was amazing,” Baker said. “Symbolic.”
Will be an annual event
While Saturday’s ceremonies served as a basic introduction to the Wreaths Across America program, the 10th Mountain Chapter of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution is now seeking to make it an annual event.
“In the future, we’d like to include other cemeteries, get someone out here to play ’Taps,’ and make an annual event of it,” Baker said. “These live balsam fir wreaths symbolize our honor to those who have served and are serving in the armed forces of our great nation and to their families who endure sacrifices every day on our behalf.”
To get involved, visit wreathsacrossamerica.org.
“Every $15 wreath sponsorship is a meaningful gift from a grateful American who knows what it means to serve and sacrifice for the freedoms we all enjoy,” said Karen Worcester, executive director of Wreaths Across America. “Whether the wreath is placed this December, or next, know that your gift will be honored. We are so grateful to the good people of this great nation for participating in our mission to remember, honor and teach.”
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