The Oakdale community as well as a few service organizations have once again grown in an impactful way.
Thanks to the early efforts of Cub Scout Troop 365 and Boy Scout Troop 365 under the leadership of Boy Scout Leader Doug Creekpaum, Wreaths Across America now has an official home in Oakdale.
“This is the first year that we have been signed as an actual participating cemetery,” said Oakdale Citizens’ Cemetery board secretary Melinda Owen, although the wreath laying was made there. in recent years.
Wreaths Across America is a nationwide event where wreaths are laid on the graves of fallen service members. It is held annually on the third Saturday in December starting at noon Eastern Time. Cemeteries across the United States hold their event at the appropriate time, so the ceremonies are held simultaneously.
According to Owen, she first heard about the crowns program over 20 years ago while watching a TV show. A crown maker had a number of crowns left and asked a truck driver what to do with them. The decision was made to take them to Arlington National Cemetery in the first year. The following year, he made sure he had enough to cover all of Arlington.
“I think most national veterans cemeteries have this program,” Owen said. “I know Santa Nella knows that.”
Owen had his first surprise that inspired the program two years ago when Troop 365 sponsored seven crowns that were delivered. Last year 36 were delivered and a very small ceremony was held.
“They raised money to sponsor these wreaths,” Owen said, noting that it takes a $ 15 donation to sponsor a wreath. For every $ 15 received, $ 5 goes to the cemetery for upkeep and expenses.
“I registered the cemetery as a location and then as a participant, which allows us to make money from it,” she said. “We have sold close to 900 or sponsored close to 900 crowns. But the bottom line is that we honor our veterans.
Some might say that the news of the OCC supporting this event has landed in the ears of the right people. Earlier this fall, Pacific Project Heroes presented Owen on behalf of the OCC with a check for $ 5,000 to be used for the Wreaths Across America effort.
“Their initial donation of $ 5,000 covered the raising of 333 crowns,” said Owen, adding that since then she has received several large additional donations of $ 1,000 to $ 1,500, but most of the donations have been made. by family members wishing to honor a soldier.
In Oakdale, this year’s ceremony will be on Dec. 18 at 9 a.m., which is the noon schedule on the East Coast.
With extra attention and all of the now honored veterans at OCC, Owen is planning a big rally this third Saturday in December. A reverence ceremony will be conducted mainly by the troop leader. Cubs will also lead the Pledge of Allegiance and Barbara Findlay will sing the national anthem.
Anticipating a larger than average crowd, Owen encouraged attendees to bring chairs for the ceremony and allow extra time for parking, as the entrances to the cemetery will be closed to traffic.
“The main focus is the veterans and their families who are still here,” she said of the service. “We have a lot of volunteers who come from the Pacific Project Heroes group. “
She also encourages anyone with a family member buried at OCC or a friend for whom they may have sponsored a wreath to attend and place the wreath on this grave.
“I know we are the only cemetery around that has actually achieved our goal of getting enough wreaths to sponsor all of our veterans’ graves,” she explained.
She also wants to remind people that this is not a “one-size-fits-all” event; it’s an annual project, every third Saturday in December.
“This is an ongoing annual project. We fundraise all year round, it would be wonderful if we had funded everything by the summer. Money can be sent in advance, ”she said.
Going from 37 kroner to 900 in a year may seem incredible to some. For Owen, she shared that achieving the 900 goal was not optional. She and a few others hit the ground hard with no intention of stopping until the goal was reached.
“I think it’s not only important to do it in our community, but it’s all over our country because we have to be grateful to the people who gave their lives, who fought for us,” said Owen said. “Unfortunately, a lot of our young people have no idea. Even middle-aged people, many of them have no idea why. On the one hand, we no longer teach history to our children. We are eliminating our history. We change our story to what some want it to be. So it’s very, very important for them to learn that.
Those interested in donating any denomination for other wreaths can do so by sending a check to: OCC / Wreaths Across America, PO Box 600, Oakdale, CA 95361.
“It’s going to happen rain or shine,” Owen said of the ceremony, “because our veterans, our military have served us rain or shine.”