QUEENSTOWN — In 2018, for the first time, a wreath was placed on every grave at the Eastern Shore Veterans Cemetery in Hurlock during National Wreaths Across America Day.
“Because of (the community’s) generosity, last year for the first time we achieved the monumental goal of a wreath for every grave at the Eastern Shore Veterans Cemetery. Thus every veteran was honored, remembered and lessons taught our younger generations,” said Robin Lanham of Chester, a member of the Queen Anne’s County Garden Club, part of the Federated Garden Clubs of Maryland District 1.
The Federated Garden Clubs of Maryland District 1 represents seven counties and 11 garden clubs on the Eastern Shore. The garden clubs are working in partnership with Benedict A. Andrew American Legion Auxiliary Unit 296 in Queenstown, led by Nola Willis, to raise the funds needed to cover the cemetery and repeat that success.
“While close, we have not yet achieved that goal this year, so we still need your support,” Lanham said.
Failure is not an option, according to Lynn Riley, a member of Federalsburg VFW Post 5246 and Wreaths Across America location coordinator for the cemetery. Her parents are buried in the cemetery.
“We will have a wreath on every grave,” she said. “We are women on a mission.”
The auxiliary is asking Mid-Shore businesses and community members to purchase wreaths for $15 each. For every two wreaths purchased, Wreaths Across America will donate one free to the Eastern Shore Veterans Cemetery. National Wreath Across America Day is Dec. 14, but the Nov. 15 deadline to donate is drawing close.
Last year, volunteers placed wreaths on 7,350 graves. With more veterans dying every week, the number of graves has increased. This year, Riley said, she projects they’ll need 7,700 wreaths for the cemetery.
“This is the only veterans cemetery on the Shore,” said Queenstown auxiliary member Dawn Thomas. “You are honoring those who served when you donate.”
Thomas noted they got a slight jump on fundraising this year because they had some donations come in after the deadline last year. Any money tagged for the local cemetery that is left over or comes in late is credited to the project for the next year.
Serving on Unit 296’s Wreaths Across America Committee with Willis and Thomas are Toni L. Andrew, Pat Bowell and Diane Ruth.
Lanham is the co-chairman of Patriotic Programs for Federated Garden Clubs of Maryland District 1 and the chairman for the Wreaths Across America fundraiser. She worked for 40 years as a civilian in the Office of Naval Intelligence.
“It means honoring the people who have served to keep our freedoms, to keep our way of life,” she said.
The theme for this year’s program is “Everyone Plays a Part.”
The inspiration for the theme came from a conversation 10-year-old “Mighty” Miles Worcester, the grandson of the founders of Wreaths Across America, had with a U.S. service member in uniform. Miles shook the man’s hand and thanked him for his service. He responded: “Thank you … everyone plays a part.”
According to the Wreaths Across America website, Miles told WAA Executive Director Karen Worcester he believed the statement would be the perfect theme because “those serving in the military are doing their part, but it is our part as Americans to remember and honor them, and that’s what Wreaths Across America does.”
The cemetery in Hurlock is one of five veterans cemeteries throughout Maryland where an eligible veteran may receive a burial plot for their final resting place, a grave liner, headstone and interment services at no expense. Many of the veterans buried there come from Queen Anne’s, Kent, Caroline, Talbot and Dorchester counties. It is the smallest of the state’s veterans cemeteries and the only one on the Eastern Shore.
On Dec. 14, Perdue will deliver the wreaths to the cemetery at 9 a.m., Riley said. They will be escorted by the Dorchester County Sheriff’s Office, the Hurlock Volunteer Fire Department, Iron Legacy Motorcycle Club and the Hogs and Heroes Motocycle Club.
A short, moving ceremony is planned at 10 a.m. and will be followed by the laying of the wreaths, Riley added. Wreaths also will be dedicated to the POW’s from each branch of the service.
Donate online at www.wreathsacrossamerica.org. To make certain the donation goes to the purchase of wreaths for the Eastern Shore Veterans Cemetery and the correct fundraising campaign, be sure to click on “Support a Local Fundraising Group” and enter Group ID # MD0016 and Location ID # MDESVH.
Donations also may be made by check. Write the check to “Wreaths Across America” and mail it to Benedict A. Andrew American Legion Auxiliary Unit 296, 6200 Main St., Queenstown, MD 21658, Attn. Toni Lynn Andrew. Checks must be submitted by Nov. 15.
Wreaths Across America began in 2007 at Arlington National Cemetery. Now on National Wreaths Across America Day on Dec. 14, volunteers will place wreaths on graves at more than 1,200 locations throughout the U.S.