Wreath laying for veterans in Millsboro still on for December

Family and community members place wreaths at graves of veterans buried at the Delaware Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Millsboro last December. Delaware State News/Glenn Rolfe

MILLSBORO — An encore performance matching 2019’s historic wreath-laying ceremony at Delaware Veterans Memorial Cemetery may be out of the question.

But there’s no question about the passion, respect and love for America’s veterans.

“I know widows and widowers that have a husband or wife buried there at that cemetery, and that $15 they spend to sponsor a wreath, it is very possible they could be going without a meal, a prescription or something. That is a reality, and I know that from talking to the women,” said Teresa Ziegler Townsend, local coordinator for Wreaths Across America at the veterans’ cemetery, just north of Millsboro. “There are some, they’ll do without a meal, do without a prescription, to be able to say that they paid for a wreath that went on their loved one’s grave.”

As large-scale gatherings and events join the cancellation list amid the coronavirus pandemic, plans remain a go for 2020 wreath-laying ceremonies on National Wreaths Across America Day, Dec. 19, at the cemetery on Patriots Way.

Last year, a small army of volunteers teamed to place wreaths at every gravesite and every columbarium. That marked a first in the history of the Millsboro cemetery, a final resting place for several thousand veterans and their spouses.

“We were truly blessed in 2019 to place, for the first time, a wreath at every veteran’s grave,” Ms. Townsend said.

Altogether, the 2019 total was 3,033 wreaths, made possible through sponsorship support, as well as matching incentives. That included a generous match through National Wreaths Across America and other fundraising initiatives, including one sponsored through Ms. Townsend.

“We acquired about 1,500 in that two-week period — free wreaths,” said Ms. Townsend.

This year, there are challenges. Aside from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, there is no major matching one-for-one incentive from Wreaths Across America.

There is a two-for-one match through Ms. Townsend’s fundraiser, accessible through the Wreaths Across America website — wreathsacrossamerica.org — using Millsboro’s 19966 ZIP code and scrolling to locate Ms. Townsend’s page.

“My fundraising page is set up so that for every two wreaths sponsored, we receive a free wreath,” she said.

Single-wreath sponsorship is $15.

“It goes without saying that each and every sponsorship, no matter how big or small, is important to the mission of Wreaths Across America to remember and honor our veterans at the Delaware Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Millsboro,” said Ms. Townsend. “We all work together to remember and honor our veterans and teach our children the value of freedom.

“I know and fully realize that there are widows and widowers who go without (something) to pay the $15 sponsorship for a wreath for their loved one,” Ms. Townsend said. “There are also a number of our deceased veterans who have no family or no family living to sponsor a wreath for them. That’s why sponsorships and generosity of friends, individuals, veteran service organizations and other local organizations, groups and businesses are so important in our mission to remember and honor our veterans with a wreath during the holiday season.”

Family, friends and individuals who love and support America’s veterans represent the largest sponsorship group each year, according to Ms. Townsend.

Ms. Townsend highlighted the support, which includes the staff of the Delaware Veterans Memorial Cemetery, as well as:

• The Delaware National Guard.

• Perdue Farms, which provides refrigerated transportation of wreaths for the Millsboro event, as well as others from Maine to Delaware.

• The U.S. Coast Guard Station/Indian River.

• The Dover Air Force Base.

• The American Legion Post 28 Honor Guard.

• The Korean War Veteran Association Sussex Chapter 1.

• The American Legion Riders Post 8 and Ernest St. Jacques, who “helped to bring to fruition our first annual truck escort from the Arthur W. Perdue Stadium in Salisbury, Maryland, to our Delaware Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Millsboro. They not only got up early that December morning (and) rode in the cold on motorcycles, they then jumped in to help the cemetery staff with the unloading of over 3,000 wreaths, which equated to over 300 boxes. It would have been a very long day without (their) generosity,” Ms. Townsend said.

• The Knights of Columbus 4th Degree/Father Capodanno Assembly. “These gentlemen have handled our parking for National Wreaths Across America Day in 2018 and 2019,” said Ms. Townsend. “They had no idea what they were walking into. We could have never imagined that our volunteer base would grow over 900% from 2017 to 2018. We went from under 100 volunteers in 2017 to over 1,000 in 2018 and again in 2019.”

Ms. Townsend acknowledged other fundraising organizations for their work throughout the year in acquiring wreath sponsorships: Sally Kubicki’s personal group; Delmarva Power’s Millsboro/Harrington districts; Operation Jeeps for Wreaths; Civil Air Patrol-Coastal Patrol Base 2 Memorial Composite Squadron MAR-DE-019; the Civil Air Patrol’s Eagle Cadet Squadron; the Delaware State Society of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution; and her own fundraising group.

“It takes an army of volunteers and thousands of volunteer hours to bring the event together as a beautiful memorial for our heroes. Some who are willing to donate their time are local singers, clergy, your friends and neighbors, members of local VSOs, last year a bagpiper and so many more,” said Ms. Townsend.

To make a specific grave request

Specific requests are welcome and anyone wishing to sponsor a wreath at a specific grave at the cemetery in Millsboro should contact Ms. Townsend at 945-4100.

Fundraising match incentive available

The bonus match incentive through Ms. Townsend’s fundraiser can be utilized by calling Wreaths Across America at (877) 385-9504 and using the group number DE 0016 for an automatic two-wreaths-equals-one-bonus-wreath deal.

The Delaware Veterans Memorial Cemetery location ID is DEVMSU (Delaware Veterans Memorial Sussex). That identification differs from the other Delaware Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Bear.