Veterans honored in King
Christmas wreaths to be placed at cemetery
By James Card
A solemn spectacle will occur at the Central Wisconsin Veterans Memorial Cemetery in King on Saturday, Dec. 17.
Starting at 10 a.m., around 300 volunteers will place approximately 7,613 wreaths against each headstone.
At the cemetery in King there are graves of veterans from the Civil War, the Indian Wars, the Spanish American War and all the other wars thereafter. It is the final resting place for many peace-time veterans. Dependents are buried there also.
This holiday honor is part of a nationwide movement called Wreaths Across America where wreaths are placed at 3,400 locations in all 50 U.S. states and cemeteries abroad.
“A good buddy of mine down at a south Florida veteran’s cemetery—they lay over 100,000,” said Robert West, an American Legion volunteer and organizer.
The people who make this happen in King are the American Legion Riders of Wisconsin’s District 8 [six counties in central Wisconsin region].
Wisconsin has a unique connection to this national effort: The wreaths are made in Maine with balsam fir boughs but the frames for the wreaths are made at Mitchell Wreath Rings, a metal products fabricator in Merrill.
This year they made around 3 million frames for Wreaths Across America. Wreaths are hauled to veteran cemeteries by volunteer truckers at no charge.
Volunteers help lay wreaths
The Central Wisconsin Veterans Memorial Cemetery is expansive and hilly yet the volunteers are able to place all of the wreaths in about an hour. The event is open to the public and anyone who wants to help should be there by 10 a.m.
“The only thing we do ask are those that have loved ones buried there – they go up first. The survivors of those buried there get to go first then the general public goes and lays wreaths” said West. “The important thing is – and we tell people this every year – take one wreath at a time, take it to the headstone, say the name on the headstone and then lay the wreath. Some people lay them out like they are dealing cards.”
The ceremony at 11 a.m. will have the traditional military rituals: the posting of colors, the Pledge of Allegiance, the Star Spangled Banner, an invocation and benediction, a military salute and Echo Taps – where two buglers distance themselves to create an echo effect . There will be a ceremonial wreath laying by a representative of each of the military branches.
Wausau resident Col. David J. Monk will give the speech.
Monk is a West Point grad and started off as a platoon leader with the 101st Airborne Division. He served in Operation Desert Storm, held various roles in the Wisconsin Army National Guard and deployed with his unit in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom III. His unit was also deployed to the Sunni Triangle in Iraq. He retired with 27 years of service in June 2015 with numerous honors.
The wreaths will remain in place until spring and are picked up around snow melt.