SPRINGFIELD, Mo.– For the first time ever, 100% of the headstones in the Springfield National Cemetery are now accompanied by a wreath.
“Over 13,500 wreaths,” said President of Itus Virtus, Robert Shawley.
Itus Virtus is a non-profit group made up of law enforcement officers, first responders and veterans.
One of Itus Virtus’s programs is Wreaths for Fallen Heroes, which helps raise money to purchase the wreaths used to honor veterans buried in Springfield’s cemeteries.
Shawley is a fellow veteran himself and says it’s important for families of fallen soldiers to know their loved one isn’t forgotten.
“I’d hate for a family member of a fallen soldier to come out here during the holiday season to see no wreath on their headstone,” said Shawley.
The cemetery, established in 1867, acts as the final resting place for over 14,000 veterans including five Medal of Honor recipients.
The wreath-laying is part of Wreaths Across America, a national nonprofit formed in 2007 which honors veteran graves across the country every December. Wreaths Across America’s mission is to remember, honor and teach.
People of all ages volunteered to help honor the buried.
“Five years ago we started out with 275 wreaths, that a handful of us pitched in together and bought,” said Shawley. “Five years later we’re putting out over 19,000 wreaths.”
World War II Vet, Edgar Fox, attended the wreath ceremony.
“I joined the service in 1941 in the Marine Corps, I went to the Battle of Midway then on to Iwo Jima,” said Fox.
Fox says efforts like this one are important.
“To see the people step out lets me know that the men that made it possible for me to be here have not been forgotten,” said Fox.
He says he’s fortunate to represent the soldiers who never made it home.
“Don’t forget the cemetery where the men are that made it possible to enjoy your freedom that you have today,” said Fox.