FLORENCE, S.C. (WBTW)– An annual effort to place Christmas wreaths on the graves of service members came up short this year with fewer than half of the graves at the Florence National Cemetery getting decorated.
The national Wreaths Across America program took place on Saturday. During the annual event, more than 3,000 cemeteries across the country are to remember service members ahead of the holidays.
Volunteers traveled from across the Pee Dee and Grand Strand to participate.
“It really looks nice to see all the wreaths out here,” W. Newton McEwan said. “It feels good. There are a lot of people who are interested in it and they are doing a beautiful job here keeping it clean and everything else.”
McEwan served in the U.S. Navy in World War II and came to the cemetery to pay respects to his wife. He said he was pleased to see so many volunteers. However, Carol Dion, president of Blue Star Mothers of Coastal Carolina said they didn’t have enough wreaths for all the graves.
“Today, we will be placing approximately 6,750 wreaths, but we have over 15,000 graves,” Dion said. “We are not even going to be able to do half the cemetery.”
There were enough wreaths in 2019, but she blames this year’s shortage on a lack of donations and a higher death rate due to COVID-19.
“The crew at this cemetery has been burying five to seven veterans a week since COVID started. They have been through hell and back,” Dion said. “That means you have to grab a handful of wreaths and walk out there and decide who gets a wreath and who doesn’t, and that is not fair.”
Dion said if a donor sponsors two wreaths through Blue Star Mothers of Coastal Carolina for next year, Wreaths Across America will donate an additional three until Jan. 14.
“Every one of these veterans deserves to have a Christmas wreath,” Dion said.