ALBANY, Ill. — Lusk Memorial Cemetery in Albany will participate in Wreaths Across America this month, one of 1,500 locations nationwide that place wreaths on veterans' graves during the holiday season.
The wreath-laying ceremonies takes place at the same time across the country, said Toni Lucas, pastor of Albany United Methodist Church. The ceremony is scheduled for 11 a.m. Central time on Dec. 15.
"This is my 10th year," said Lucas, location leader for the Albany event. "I've done this in 10 locations now. I saw an article and thought 'Oh, we ought to do that.'"
Lucas can't host Wreaths Across America herself. She has to find organizations to sponsor it. In Albany, the Lions Club will host the ceremony.
"This is the first time Albany has done it," said Lucas, who is new to the area. "The mission… is to place a wreath on the grave of every veteran in the United States."
This year Wreaths Across America is going to Normandy to lay wreaths as well.
"Hopefully people see, come and participate and take it to their [own] cemetery," Lucas said.
Lusk Cemetery has 172 veterans' graves, according to Lucas. The Lions Club raised enough money to buy a wreath for each one.
"There's a ceremony, and a ceremonial flag is placed for every branch of the service," Lucas said. A wreath is placed for prisoners of war and service members missing in action. Following the ceremony, people in attendance can help place wreaths on veterans' graves.
"There are thousands of places that do it," Lucas said. "They do it in Arlington National Cemetery at noon on that Saturday. Every ceremony, wherever it is, happens at the exact same time. There's a location, too, in Guam."
Wreaths Across America is a national nonprofit organization that began as a gesture of thanks and has grown into a national movement in the last 10 years, the organization says. It asks volunteers and communities not only to remember the nation's fallen and to honor their service, but to teach the next generation about those sacrifices.
The theme for 2018 is “Be their witness," Wreaths Across America says. The theme comes from the 2009 drama “Taking Chance,” which tells the story of U.S. Marine Lt. Colonel Michael Strobl who escorted the body of a fallen Marine, PFC Chance Phelps, back to his hometown in Wyoming during the Iraq War.
More than a million volunteers will gather at nearly 1,500 locations to place wreaths on National Wreaths Across America Day. The ceremonies are free, non-political, community events open to the public.
Visit Albany's Wreaths Across America Facebook page for more information.