Harlingen begins preparations for Wreaths Across America Ceremony

A Wreaths Across America Opening Ceremony was held at Pendleton Park Dec. 15, 2018, with hundreds of residents and volunteers from surrounding cities in attendance. (Maricela Rodriguez/Valley Morning Star)

HARLINGEN — The service of fallen veterans, from the Revolutionary War to present day, is being remembered and honored with this annual holiday tribute.

The Harlingen Veterans’ Memorial Project Committee is gearing up for its annual Wreaths Across America (WAA) ceremony, which will be held on Dec. 19.

According to organizers, plans remain fluid with a strong commitment to having a ceremony that meets health protocols and allows for a safe placement of wreaths in the city’s cemeteries.

“There will be a Wreaths Day this year,” WAA location coordinator Lenore J. Combs stated in a press release. “Our efforts remain strong to honor and remember our veterans who served our country 24/7 through times of economic and political hardship.”

The committee’s goal is to place a live balsam evergreen remembrance wreath on the graves of all of the city’s interred veterans.

“COVID-19 constrictions might cramp our style, but with social distancing, wearing masks and acting responsibly we can have a program of which to be proud,” Combs stated. “In the midst of this health crisis, we are reaching out in a safe manner while supporting and especially giving back to our community and our beloved veterans.”

WAA coordinates wreath-laying ceremonies at more than 2,000 locations across the country, at sea and abroad. Each year, a new theme is chosen to help volunteers and supporters focus their messaging and outreach in their own communities.

This year’s WAA theme is “An American Worth Fighting For.” The theme was inspired by a keynote address made by Staff Sgt. Daniel Strong during the 2018 escort to Arlington welcome stop at the Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical School in Massachusetts.

As an infantryman in the U.S. Marine Corps, Strong lost 18 Marines during his service. According to WAA personnel, each death impacted Strong in a unique way as he witnessed first-hand what true sacrifice was and experienced the ripple effect it has on all involved.

“Be an American worth the sacrifice. In your daily operations, and in how you deal with one another and how you live your lives,” Strong stated. “Those young men and women who are in Arlington National Cemetery and other cemeteries, they earned the right for you to be an American worth fighting for.”

Harlingen Veterans’ Memorial Project Committee will have a wreath pickup area for those that order a wreath.

“In the past, groups have held typical fundraisers to support the purchase of wreaths and some funeral homes have given donations, but now that opportunity is complicated,” Combs stated. “Other local cemeteries have participated because their families provided contributions. We will not have a sufficient number of wreaths without donations.”

Wreaths Out Day is scheduled for Jan.16. Volunteers are needed to help collect and dispose of wreaths.

To become a volunteer, make a donation or order a live wreath for an interred veteran, contact Combs at LJCombs44@gmail.com.

For more information, visit www.harlingenveterans.com.

ahernandez@valleystar.com