JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – It’s almost time for people to start thinking about holiday decorations, but for the organizers of Wreaths Across America, Christmas wreaths are at the front of mind all year long.
Local organizers for Mountain Home National Cemetary only have about two months left to raise enough money to put a wreath on all 17,663 graves. That number will go up by about 50 each month, Mountain Home’s leaders said.
“We’re under 3,000 wreaths at this time, so we still have 14,000-plus wreaths to go,” said Debra Deegan, the local coordinator for Wreaths Across America at Mountain Home.
With the wreath-laying ceremony coming up on Dec. 16, Deegan said donations are low.
“If we were able to have every single household donate $17 per wreath, which is one wreath, we’d be able to cover them no problem,” she said.
Last year, 12,952 wreaths were laid at the cemetery. That’s the most in the group’s history, Deegan told News Channel 11.
“Because we aren’t always able to cover all 17-thousand, we alternate between uprights and flat headstones to kind of make sure everybody gets a wreath at least every other year,” she said. “Last year, we did do uprights, so this year we will do flat stones first. And then we kind of fill in from there to make sure that we’re being fair about it. But obviously, our goal is always to cover every single grave.”
Deegan says the project is about much more than a beautiful sight at Christmas.
“We honor our veterans now, while they’re here we thank them for their service when we see them; but these men and women, they also made the ultimate sacrifice,” said Deegan. “They’re just not here for us to honor them, so this is our opportunity to honor them. The people that are buried at Moutain Home National Cemetary, these were people that created—maybe helped create Johnson City, build Johnson City to what it is today. Might have been people that were your neighbors, you banked with or even worshipped with.”
Wreaths Across America will be fundraising until Nov. 28 for this year’s wreaths. Several veteran groups like the Rolling Thunder Motorcycle Club have been raising money all year.
There are also several fundraisers happening before the wreath-laying ceremony, which takes place Dec. 16 at noon:
Oct. 14 – Tractor Supply 3100 East Stone Drive, Kingsport, TN. 37660
Oct. 21 – WJ’s Bike Show 3318 Wayfield Dr. Johnson City, TN 37601 (10 a.m. to 3 p.m.)
Oct. 26 – Project BBQ, 3301 N Roan St Johnson City, TN 37601 (11 a.m. to 8 p.m.)
Oct. 28 – Tractor Supply 2606 Minnich Trail Dr, Kingsport, TN. 37660
Nov. 4 – Tractor Supply, 210 Cherokee Park Dr Elizabethton, TN.
Nov. 9 – Mountain Home VA Car & Bike Show (4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. in Building 160)
Nov. 11 – Johnson City Texas Roadhouse
Nov. 11 – Donation Table during WWE Event at Freedom Hall Civic Center
Nov 15 – Eggs Up Grill in Johnson City, Dine-in, Carry Out, or Catering (6 a.m. to 2 p.m.)
Nov. 25 – Candyland Christmas Tree viewing located at Cupcake Commons (King Commons) & Gumdrop Forest (Founders Park) in downtown Johnson City Nov. 25 thru Jan 7.