‘Makes my heart full’: Nearly 11,000 holiday wreaths for veterans laid at Florence National Cemetery

Published: Dec. 18, 2022 at 9:42 AM EST
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FLORENCE, S.C. (WMBF) - A new record for holiday wreath donations was set Saturday during a ceremony for the Wreaths Across America campaign.

Veterans buried at the Florence National Cemetery received their wreaths as those at the ceremony honored them. It also marked the first in-person ceremony in two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nearly 11,000 wreaths were donated through the help of people across the Grand Strand and Pee Dee.

Saturday’s ceremony was part of a larger campaign by Wreaths Across America, which coordinated events at more than 3,400 locations across the country.

Their mission is to honor and remember veterans who served our country.

As people placed the wreath on a grave, volunteers said their name out loud, the dates of their birth and death, and their branch of service.

Melissa Dion, an Army veteran who works with Blue Star Mothers, said the ceremony made her feel honored to place these wreaths to our heroes.

Dion holds one soldier close to her heart in Sgt. Julius Raymond Wilkes Jr., who died in a helicopter accident.

“I am so honored that I was able to meet somebody and be able to do something to help. We can’t keep him alive, but we can keep his memory alive. He will always be remembered, and he will always be known,” said Dion.

She made it her duty every year to place a wreath to honor and remember Wilkes.

“It is my goal for all my family from generation to generation to come pay their honors. And that Raymond Wilkes will live forever in our hearts,” said Dion.

For other families, they made this ceremony a part of their holiday traditions

“My husband and I make it a tradition that we purchase multiple wreaths just in case someone didn’t get one for their headstone,” said Angela Stephens, who came from Lumberton to put a wreath on her son’s headstone. “To honor them in such a way makes my heart full.”