The annual wreath-laying at Albert G. Horton Jr. Memorial Veterans Cemetery will be different this year due to the pandemic and the return of gathering restrictions.
Every December, between 2,000 and 3,000 volunteers flood the cemetery to lay more than 10,000 wreaths on veterans’ gravestones. However, with gatherings limited to 25 people, this year’s event will be modified significantly.
The president of the Horton Wreath Society, retired Chief Michael Yarbrough, created a new plan to get wreaths on the gravestones this year without breaking the new restrictions.
“I would like to apologize to the general community for not being able to come out and help this year,” said Yarbrough. “I do encourage everyone to come out in the days after to see the graves. They always look so nice after the wreaths are put on them.”
There are four days for volunteers to sign up and come out to help with the process. Despite many not being able to volunteer like in past years, there are still ways to help.
On Dec. 16 and 17, volunteers are still needed at the National Guard Armory, 2761 Godwin Blvd., to unload, check and reload the wreaths before transporting them to the cemetery. This job needs 50 volunteers to come out and help during different time slots. In past years, high school students were able to come, but according to Yarbrough, that seems unlikely this year.
“A lot of people don’t realize the wreaths actually come Wednesday, and that’s the real hard work,” said Yarbrough. “We unpack each box with nine wreaths in each and we check them, the bow, do any repairs, and count them before loading them onto a volunteer FedEx truck to go to the cemetery.”
On Dec. 18, the people who have pre-registered to place the wreaths on a loved one’s grave personally will be able to do so. This program will take place between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. to allow staggered times. Those already registered are asked to reconfirm on the website.
The electronic sign-up sheet for the Dec. 19 distribution is already full. These 200 volunteers will be split into two separate time slots. During each time slot, the group of 100 will divide again into four groups to spread over their section.
“We have over 50 acres, so social distancing will be automatic,” said Yarbrough.
To register for Wednesday, Thursday or Friday, visit hortonwreathsociety.org.