JOHNSON CITY, Tenn (WJHL) — On Saturday, Dec. 17, Christmas wreaths will be placed on veteran graves at the Mountain Home National Cemetery in Johnson City.

More than 8,700 wreaths will be placed, each purchased through a months-long fundraising campaign.

“These veterans deserve the honor and respect of us doing this – to remember all they’ve done and the sacrifices they’ve made,” said Debra Deegan, Wreaths Across America coordinator at Mountain Home National Cemetery.

Each wreath sold for $15.

“We are remembering, honoring and teaching all about the veterans and our freedom,” she said.

But while 8,700 graves will be decorated here, more than 17,200 veterans are buried at Mountain Home. That means about half won’t have wreaths this Christmas.

Volunteers carry wreaths to veteran graves at Mountain Home Cemetery during “Wreaths Across America” in 2021. (Photo: Debra Deegan)

“It kind of breaks my heart, but there’s joy because six years ago there was 175 wreaths,” said Allen Jackson, historian for the Tri-Cities Military Affairs Council, one of the groups that sold wreaths as a fundraiser for their veteran organizations.

“When you pay 15 dollars for a wreath through TC-MAC or Rolling Thunder or one of those groups, $5 comes back to the area so you get a double bang for your buck,” Jackson said.

Fundraising for next year starts right away. Tri-Cities veterans groups hope to decorate every grave at Christmas 2023.

“It’s a matter of putting the word out and making it easy for people to make donations,” said Debra Deegan.

Volunteers also are needed to place the thousands of wreaths at Mountain Home Cemetery after a noon service Saturday, Dec. 17.

Many who already signed up to help are only children.

“We’re teaching them how to respect our veterans, how to respect what they did and the sacrifices that they made,” Deegan said.