MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — With their bodies bundled up against December’s biting cold, patriotism and honor stood hand-in-hand on the frozen ground of Fort Snelling National Cemetery.
On Saturday, hundreds gathered under the main flagpole to remember past sacrifice during a time of holiday cheer.
“The holiday season is one of the toughest times for families who lost loved ones and that’s one reason it’s so important to do this today,” said U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar.
The remembrance came in the form of 1,800 balsam wreaths. One-by-one, each branch of the military would have a wreath placed against a granite monument. Following the official ceremony came a wave of volunteers eager to decorate hundreds of white marble markers in a sea of red and green.
Rita Privratsky was among those braving the elements to lend a helping hand. Her father and two brothers are buried at Fort Snelling.
“No matter how cold it is it’s just the least we can do. Just to honor them a few times a year,” said Privatsky.
The day of decorating is part of a nationwide program called “Wreaths Across America.” It began six years ago on the east coast as a way to help decorate Arlington National Cemetery. This year, the program will orchestrate the laying of more than 325,000 wreaths on veterans’ graves in all 50 states.
In Minnesota, the Civil Air Patrol organizes the wreath laying campaign. They will gather sponsorships to purchase the wreaths and then deliver them to cemeteries across the state.
“The wreaths are purchased through donations and our squadrons across the state go out on fundraising to support the wreath program,” said CAP Wing Commander Jerry Rosendahl.
With her uncles and grandfather resting in this silent and solemn ground, Clarissa Rozales will do her part. Along with her grandmother, Rozalez carried an armful of wreaths to white marble markers of veterans she didn’t know. It is her way of keeping the memories of all veterans alive, through the greenery of the season.
“Even if they’re not here with us today, this is what we can do to at least show we care for them and love them, even if we don’t know them,” said Rozales.