Area leaders look to place wreaths at veterans' graves

WISCONSIN RAPIDS, Wis. (WSAW) -- Two leaders of the American Legion Riders need more help to honor veterans this holiday season by placing a wreath on each of their graves at the cemetery in King.

Wreaths laid at veterans' graves in King (WSAW Photo courtesy of Evelyn and Ray McSherry).

"When we're up on that hill at King's Cemetery laying those wreaths, right across the street is our veterans' home, and there's veterans living over there who look over and see and think, 'I'm going to be remembered,'" said Evelyn McSherry, District Secretary of the American Legion Riders.

That is why Evelyn and Ray McSherry of Wisconsin Rapids want to honor as many veterans' graves as they can with a ceremony on December 14.

"We were just thrilled that we were able to just go up and put a wreath on every single headstone up there,” said Evelyn McSherry of last year’s ceremony.

To do it again this year, they need help. They need more donations if they are going to cover all 7,400 graves at the Central Wisconsin Veterans Memorial Cemetery. Veterans from many wars, including the Civil War, are laid to rest there.

"The amount changes at the cemetery every year because we are burying our veterans every day," she said.

Gathering $15 every year for each new wreath is symbolic.

"It's a live wreath, and their memory is alive yet," McSherry said.

The project is part of Wreaths Across America, a national organization that holds wreath laying ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery each December since 1992, with local ceremonies occurring on the same day. The McSherrys got involved in 2010.

"In 2010 with six weeks to go before the date, we decided to start raising money. We raised enough to lay 400 wreaths at King in 6 weeks," Evelyn McSherry said.

As a veteran himself, American Legion Riders District President Ray McSherry says, "They gave for us, and we just want to remember them.”

When someone lays a wreath, "We do tell them to step back and say the name, because they don't want to be forgotten. Another thing that they can do is go home and look the man up, see who he was, where he comes from,” said Ray McSherry.

"I have to tell anyone that is able to attend this ceremony, that what it will do to you when you have taken part in laying these wreaths, you will remember after you have left. It re-instills in us every bit of pride that this country should give you," said Evelyn McSherry.

Donations must be made before November 25. Each wreath is $15, and for every two wreaths purchased, they receive one free wreath.

You can donate through the Go Fund Me page “Wreaths For Central WI Veterans Memorial Cemetery.” You can also send a check payable to “ALRA” to ALRA at 1130 13th Street S, Wisconsin Rapids, WI 54494 or donate on the Wreaths Across America website by donating to group WI0004 or location WICVMK.