More Than 1,000 Wreaths to Be Placed on Clarion Veterans’ Graves
(PICTURED ABOVE: The Clarion Civil Air Patrol raised money for Christmas wreaths four years ago and visited the Arlington National Cemetery. Photo courtesy Noreen Shirey.)
It’s the goal of Noreen Shirey to have a wreath for every man and woman buried there who wore a military uniform.
When Clarion resident Kimberly Girts saw the local Wreaths Across America effort, she knew she wanted to sponsor a wreath to honor her father, Samuel H. Girts Sr.
“My Dad was always so proud of his Army service and it’s just one way that I can honor and pay tribute to him,” Girts said. “Although he wasn’t a decorated hero, he proudly served his country and defended the freedom of its citizens during the Korean Conflict. To me, it’s a small gesture of love for the price and the burden all Veterans have given to our wonderful country.”
At the same time wreaths are being placed in Clarion, 2,000,000 wreaths will laid on the graves of veterans across the nation.
It’s a tradition that actually began as a mistake.
In 1992, the Worcester Wreath Company in Maine had an excess of 5,000 wreaths. As a boy, company owner Morrill Worcester visited Arlington National Cemetery during a trip to Washington, D.C. and it left a lasting impression on him.
He decided his wreaths should be used to remember and honor those who served this nation.
“At each headstone they stopped, and they noticed the names,” says Amber Caron, who is communications director for Wreaths Across America, the nonprofit that has continued and expanded the effort. “A lot of these individuals that are buried there in some of the older sections haven’t had visitors in quite some time. All of their family is gone at this point.”
Caron says Worcester was surprised at the number of people who stopped him that day to say they were moved by his actions. That’s when he decided to make it an annual effort.
A picture of the wreaths on the graves posted by the USO (United Service Organizations) went viral in 2005 leading to the formation of the nonprofit Wreaths Across America in 2007.
Volunteers from around the nation now raise money to place wreaths, which cost $15.00 each, on the graves of local veterans.
In Clarion, that volunteer is Shirey. You could say military blood runs in her family. Her grandfather, Harry “Mick” McGuire served in WWII; her father, Robert William Allen, was in the Army during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962; and her husband, William Shirey, is a United States Army Veteran.
She says a total of 1,037 veterans are buried in either the Clarion Cemetery or the Immaculate Conception Cemetery on Second Ave. in Clarion. She gets emotional as she discusses the effort.
“My goal,” she says, “is to have all 1,037 wreaths needed for both cemeteries and encourage anyone who is interested to participate.”
The public and families are invited to the wreath-laying ceremony scheduled for Saturday, December 14, beginning at noon.
When purchasing a wreath, you can designate it for the grave of a family member or loved one, or, you can sponsor one for any veteran.
“There are many people that are buried here that don’t have family here,” Shirey explains. “It’s easy to find somebody who says they will do one for their Dad. It’s not easy to get the ones from War of 1812 or the Civil War that you can, sometimes, barely read the headstones.”
Shirey was recently able to raise $500.00 in less than a week with a GoFundMe account she shared on Facebook. As of Monday, she had 99 wreaths that had yet to be sponsored. She feels confident she’ll succeed, and if she goes over, the extra funds will be put toward next year’s wreaths.
There are two opportunities to help. Pizza Hut in Clarion will donate a portion of the profits during a “Dining to Donate at Pizza Hut” event on Veterans Day, November 11. And, the Clarion Applebee’s will donate a portion of profits a week later, on Monday, November 18. All money raised will stay in Clarion.
You can also donate to the local effort online by going to www.wreathsacrossamerica.org/pa0474.
More information can be found on Wreaths Across America Clarion Cemetery – Clarion Pennsylvania’s Facebook page or call Noreen Shirey at 814-229-6317.
Donating is not the only way for the public to participate.
Shirey says volunteers will be needed to place the wreaths on the graves on December 14. Each veteran’s name will be said aloud as their wreath is placed. The community is welcome to help honor our veterans by helping to place the wreaths.
Wreaths will also be placed at cemeteries in Lucinda, East Brady, and Tionesta, according to the National Wreaths Across America website.
“I think that the climate right now in the world or in our country is almost destructive,” says Shirey. “I really hope that this puts politics aside, puts everything aside, that you can look at the person that’s placing a wreath next to you and realize that you’re just a small part of the bigger picture.”
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