Every winter, Wreaths Across America brings color and beauty to veterans’ gravesites. But the goal isn’t holiday décor — it’s remembrance.
In all 50 states, people can donate $15 to have an evergreen wreath laid on veterans’ gravestones — locally, at Delaware Veterans Memorial Cemetery. People can order a wreath for a loved one, or donate toward the general mission of filling the Millsboro veterans’ cemetery with evergreen and red ribbons.
Locally, Wreaths Across America has grown by leaps and bounds in its effort to “remember, honor and teach.”
“The first year, they laid seven wreaths, and last year, they laid 700,” said co-organizer Teresa Townsend. “Phenomenal.”
Local wreaths will be placed on Saturday, Dec. 17. Volunteers lay the first batch at 10 a.m. Families can lay special-order wreaths on loved ones’ grave markers at 10:30 a.m. The dedication ceremony is at 11:30 a.m. in the chapel.
The ceremony includes wreath dedications for all seven branches of U.S. military service. There will be complimentary cookies and coffee.
One wreath will be placed below each row of the inurnment memorial wall, due to space constraints.
The Millsboro veteran cemetery is in beautiful condition, said head organizer Sally Kubicki, but the wreaths have inspired better care of other veterans’ cemeteries.
“We are trying to take care of our families. There are so many veterans that don’t have anyone anymore,” she said. “We try to make sure that they get a wreath … make sure they’re not forgotten.”
More than a decade has passed since Kubicki first witnessed the moving event and joined the Delaware effort.
“I came home and I said, ‘I’m going to get involved in this,’” Kubicki said.
She’s seen wreaths laid at Millsboro’s cemetery for husbands, wives, parents, friends and more.
This will be Kubicki’s last year as local chairperson, having dedicated endless personal effort, time and resources.
“It’s just something that is in your heart,” Kubicki said.
Kubicki’s husband was in the Air Force when they married, so the newlywed farm girl was immediately sent with him to Washington state and, later, to Puerto Rico during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Together, the Kubickis bring much leadership from military and veterans’ organizations, including VFW Post 7234 in Ocean View.
Townsend will take over as lead organizer next year.
“My grandfather fought in World War II,” noted Townsend.
Townsend’s grandparents helped raise her, and she would later fill that role as a caregiver for them. She knows how the hard memories impacted her grandfather, even in later years. She also thinks of her Navy veteran father, Marine brother and brother-in-law in the 82nd Airborne Division.
“Because of those men and so many others is why I got involved,” said Townsend, a member of American Legion Post 28 Auxiliary and legislative committee.
Townsend witnessed the Arlington National Cemetery’s wreath event in 2014.
“It was an experience,” she said. “The hairs on my arms still raise, because it was just phenomenal.”
Any tribute to the veterans is special, even just speaking their names aloud just one more time, Townsend said. “We are honoring those who fought.”
All the wreaths are sent directly to the cemetery, and when volunteers lay the evergreens, they do not move existing decorations or flowers, so they serve as additional symbols of remembrance, rather than replacing others.
Kubicki and Townsend thanked the community for their donations, as well as the local VFWs, American Legion, Knights of Columbus, Fenwick Island Lions Club, Seaford Young Marines and Perdue Farms for trucking.
The deadline for orders is Sunday, Nov. 20. People should first call Sally Kubicki at (302) 537-2885 or Teresa Townsend at (302) 945-4100. Then they can mail checks made payable to “Wreaths Across America.”
Delaware Veterans Memorial Cemetery is located at 26669 Patriots Way in Millsboro.
To donate a wreath in other locations, contact the national program at 1-877-385-9504 or www.WreathsAcrossAmerica.org.