Wreaths for fallen heroes
Amy Maroney, whose father served in the 173rd Airborne in Vietnam, where he earned a Purple Heart, Bronze Star, and Air Medal, attended the Veterans Home's Wreaths Across America ceremony last year, and was struck by the fact that they had only been able to lay down about 130 wreaths: A far cry from the 489 graves at the home, which inters soldiers from the Civil War through modern day.
"(The Veterans Home) did such a good job putting it together last year, I wanted to see if we could do something for them," she said. She approached her company, Church Pension Group, which organizes a charitable endeavor every year, and encouraged her co-workers to take up the cause. They were able to raise $1,900, which the company then matched. She then reached out to local veterans groups, such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion, and others.
In total, they were able to raise about $5,000 and were able to purchase wreaths for every single one of the graves, with the help of Willy's Variety, which sold her the wreaths at cost. "We have a great community," she said, "and the support from everyone has been amazing."
"Up until about three years ago we only had about seven wreaths," said Col. Al Faxon, Veterans Home Chief Operating Officer. "Last year, we had a few more. Now, thanks to Amy, we'll be able to have one for every stone."
"I wanted to see what I could do to help, and everything sort of fell into place," said Maroney. "I wanted (my 10-year-old son) to know what his grandfather had been through, what other service members and their families had been through."
The wreaths will be laid on the stones at a ceremony at noon this Saturday.
On Wednesday, the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) presented Maroney with a check that they hope will kick-start her efforts for next year. The VFW donated $500, the VFW Auxiliary donated $100, Beaudoin Paving donated $50, and Bank of Bennington donated $500, said VFW Post Commander Norm LeBlanc, who said that the group hopes to help Maroney with a fundraiser in the summer, the details of which have yet to be worked out.
Four state officers of the VFW made the drive south to participate in the ceremony, including Commander Charles Magnant. He said the organization, in its attempts to appeal to younger service members, is trying to show that it is more than a smokey bar where old-timers can gather to tell war stories. One of the best ways to increase the VFW's footprint in communities, he said, is through charitable giving. Throughout the state last year, VFW posts donated tens of thousands of hours and dollars to veterans causes. "This post here does so much for the community," he said.
Faxon described the importance of the ceremony last year. "It is vitally important for our children to understand and honor our departed veterans on this day," he wrote. "The ceremony itself is short, but meaningful. Its purpose is not to 'decorate graves', but to commemorate their sacrifice and dedication to these United States and to the cause of freedom."
Every year, Wreaths Across America events are held at 1,200 locations across the U.S. To learn more visit www.wreathsacrossamerica.org.
Derek Carson can be reached at email@example.com, at @DerekCarsonBB on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 122.
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