By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily
Volunteers placed wreaths on the graves of 4,200 Wyoming veterans on Saturday as part of a national drive that saw more than 2 million volunteers similarly decorate the graves of service members across the country.
Members of Wreaths Across America were joined by members of the Natrona County Republican Women and Patriot Guard Riders in placing the wreaths on graves during ceremonies at three Natrona County cemeteries.
As part of Wreaths Across American, an estimated 61,000 volunteers laid 400,000 wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery alone. Nationally, more than 2,000,000 participants placed wreaths in 1,640 locations.
In Wyoming, ceremonies were held at the Oregon Trail Veterans Cemetery, the only veterans cemetery in Wyoming. Later in the afternoon, ceremonies were held at Highland Park and Memorial Gardens cemeteries. Dignitaries and participants packed the chapel at OTVC to pay their respects, including U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi.
“Per capita, Wyoming’s volunteering at this event is greater than even those at Arlington,” Enzi said.
Letters from U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney and U.S. Sen. John Barrasso, in which both expressed their gratitude for Wyoming’s fallen veterans, were also read.
Casper broadcaster Bob Price served as master of ceremonies for the event, instructing those laying a wreath that as the wreath is placed at the foot of the grave, the person laying the wreath should speak the veteran’s name aloud.
“A person really dies twice,” he said. “Once when they pass away, and once when their name is spoken for the last time.”
Victoria Lockard, the co-chair for Wreaths Across America’s Natrona County chapter, estimated that 1,000 volunteers took part in the wreath laying in Casper.
She added 3,000 wreaths were placed on graves at the Oregon Trail Veterans Cemetery, 1,000 were placed at the Highland Park Cemetery and 200 were laid at Memorial Gardens.
Each year the number of wreaths placed grows and the number of volunteers grows, Lockard said.
“Each year it continues to grow, and we are so happy with the turnout of our crowd and their generosity,” she said.