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Sunday, December 19, 2021

Wreaths Across America: Local Group Helps Decorate Veterans' Graves at Mountain Home


From left, Gretta Simon with the Victor Simon Leukemia Foundation of Nashville, veteran Rodney Dye, Ezra-Howard Smith with the Kingsport New Vision Youth, veteran Rodney Dye, New Vision Youth director Johnnie Mae Swagerty, and Dave Carter, Wreaths Across America organizer

The Christmas season isn’t always about giving gifts, twinkling lights and caroling.

It’s also about remembering those who are no longer here to celebrate with their loved ones. In particular, veterans who are interred at Mountain Home Cemetery received an annual honor of wreaths being placed on their graves.

Wreaths Across America volunteers gathered this past Saturday, December 18, 2021 at the Veterans Memorial Cemetery at Mountain Home, TN to do just that after a brief ceremony to get the event started.

The New Vision Youth of Kingsport took part in the wreath-laying.  Also, Gretta Simon representing her late husband's foundation, the Victor Simon Leukemia Foundation of Nashville also took part in the wreath-laying.

The pandemic forced a lot of adjustments to the annual wreath laying last year.  Saturday's was a rain or shine event and after a morning shower, the skies kept the rest of the rain at bay.  “With the ceremony prior to the wreath placement, there is a partial return toward some level of normal,” organizer Dave Carter said. “But regardless of the weather and any updated public health protocols in effect, wreaths will be placed.”

There is a particular process volunteers follow when placing the wreath.

“Take your time. Please pause at each headstone and say that veteran’s name out loud and thank them for their service before moving on. It is not a race to see how quickly we can place the wreaths. If there are not enough sponsored wreaths to honor every veteran at Mountain Home, we hope you will still take time to stop at headstones that do not have a wreath to say the veteran’s name."

As for why the wreath laying is such an important tradition to continue each year, Carter said veterans should always be remembered for their sacrifice.

“We should always remember that for veterans throughout our history, Christmas has often been spent far from home and their loved ones. Very often, soldiers spent Christmas in conditions like the winter of 1777 at Valley Forge, and those who fought at Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge in WWII.

“Many died in places they had never heard of — in far-off jungles, desert sands and muddy trenches and frozen forests in Europe. They sacrificed their tomorrows so we could have today. After we place the wreaths, we will all go home and be safe and warm. They could not.”