Wreaths Across America gets record number of donations to honor veterans


ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — About 240,000 service members are buried at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in south St. Louis County. Every year, Wreaths Across America places sponsored wreaths on service members’ graves at thousands of cemeteries in every state in America, including Jefferson Barracks.

Kathy Schulte, the co-coordinator for Wreaths Across America, said donations were rolling in for Giving Tuesday, but they still have a long way to their goal. As of Tuesday night, their goal was only 12% filled. Although, this was the biggest year and the most amount of wreath sponsorships they had seen.

“Remember, honor, teach,” said Schulte. “We want to remember all of the veterans that have been laid to rest, us especially at Jefferson barracks, but any of them across the country. We want to honor them with a remembrance wreath and then we want to teach our children about the veterans and what they have done for our wonderful country.”

Among the graves are Tori Volner’s grandfathers, Navy Signalman Ronald Ryan, and Marine Seargeant James Volner.

Every December, a special visitor, Volner’s son, places a wreath on their graves. He never got the chance to meet his great-grandfathers.

“It means a lot to my son,” said Volner. “He looks forward to it every year. He asks a lot of questions — who they were, what they did. Then, we’ll go home and look at pictures and letters. Ever since my son was born, I’ve been getting wreaths for my grandparents. I didn’t realize at the time they were all donations. So when I realized that, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh. They have to have a wreath.'”

On Dec.18, 2021, she will bring her son to do it again, for the eighth year in a row.

“It’s something that brings him closer to them and their service,” Volner said. “Some of them gave their all, so it’s a small thing we can do to pay them back just a little bit.”

The approximately 24,000 wreaths that have been sponsored are about 10% of the graves at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery. Schulte said she would like to see every grave with a wreath.

“We want to be the Arlington of the Midwest. So, Arlington gets covered 100% every single year, and we want to do that at Jefferson Barracks,” Schulte said.

Volner agreed, saying, “I want the whole cemetery to be full of them, I don’t want anyone to be left out.”

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