Red Wing Lions Club will do its part to honor veteransFay Wallin gets no enjoyment out of Minnesota’s frigid weather, but come Dec. 15 she’ll be outside at Fort Snelling National Cemetery in “cold, rain, snow or blizzard,” she said.
By: Regan Carstensen, The Republican Eagle
Fay Wallin gets no enjoyment out of Minnesota’s frigid weather, but come Dec. 15 she’ll be outside at Fort Snelling National Cemetery in “cold, rain, snow or blizzard,” she said.
Wallin will withstand the weather for an annual event that honors veterans across the country — a wreath-laying ceremony.
It all stems from Morrill Worcester, a man in Maine who visited Arlington National Cemetery when he was just 12 years old. Years later when Worcester became the owner of a tree farm, he found himself with a surplus of wreaths after one holiday season and thought back to his experience as a child. Deciding to honor the country’s veterans, Worcester made arrangements to place the extra wreaths in an older portion of Arlington, thus creating a tradition that would one day reach far beyond Washington, D.C.
“He just did it quietly for a number of years and then a picture of the stones and wreaths adorned with snow hit the Internet and it became a national event,” Wallin explained of the program that eventually became known as Wreaths Across America.
Now more than 500 locations across the United States will take part in the recognition of veterans through a wreath laying ceremony on Dec. 15. The main event at Arlington will begin at noon and all others throughout the country will coincide, meaning the ceremony at Fort Snelling National Cemetery will begin at 11 a.m.
Taking part for the first time this year is the Red Wing Lions Club, of which Wallin is a member. She pitched the idea to the Lions after hearing of it from the group in Hastings, where she currently lives.
“The club was really receptive to it,” Red Wing Lions member John Anderson said. “We’re a fairly patriotic group. Lions are worldwide, but here in the states we have a lot of veterans, especially in our local club. We want to recognize those people who have served in the country.”
Once Wallin got her fellow members on board with Wreaths Across America, it was time to raise funds. With the help of the Prairie Island Indian Community, Merchants Bank and Red Wing Shoe Co., along with donations directly from the Lions Club, the local group collected $600.
“We should have enough for 45 wreaths,” Wallin said.
An organization in the Twin Cities that is in charge of the Fort Snelling wreath ceremony has selected a portion of the cemetery with older graves to receive the holiday decorations.
“They chose those because they are least visited,” Wallin explained. “Family members have moved or passed and those veterans and their loved ones don’t get visited as much.”
By mid-December those sites will see plenty of people — individuals, families, clubs and more — as hundreds of wreaths are brought out to adorn the stones.
“It’s not just the Lions Club and it’s not just service groups,” Wallin noted. “It’s anybody. Whoever cares to get involved.”
Wallin said she has already ordered the wreaths for this year’s ceremony, but any local individuals interested in taking part in the future are welcome to contribute to the cause. After all, it’s an event she would like to see the Lions Club take part in for many years to come.
“I hope so. I really do,” Wallin said.
“If we can continue to get local participation from businesses I don’t see any reason why we would just do it one year and stop,” Anderson said.