11-year-old hopes to place a wreath on every veteran’s grave in Virginia cemetery

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YORK COUNTY, Va. (WAVY) — There is an 11-year-old in Virginia who has made it her mission to make sure veterans who have died are never forgotten, especially during the holidays.

Cadence “Cady” Smeltzer comes from a family with deep military roots.

“My dad is in the military, Air Force, and my grandfather served in the Korean War, and his brother was a prisoner of war and a purple heart recipient in World War II, and it goes all the way back to the Revolutionary War,” said Cadence.

When she learned about Wreaths Across America, she knew she had to get involved.

“I just started it and about two years ago, I only got 25 wreaths,” she said.

Last year, the number grew to 57 wreaths, all placed on the graves of veterans at rest in Yorktown National Cemetery.

Year after year, the wreaths are laid. And year after year, there aren’t enough for every veteran in the cemetery.

It’s a reality Cadence’s mom, Vanessa, says hit her little girl hard at the end of last year’s event.

“Cady stayed long after everybody else left. She was the last little one there and she’s straightening the bows, and she’s standing over them and she’s praying and she’s thanking each one and she’s apologizing that they don’t have enough wreaths,” said Vanessa.

“It broke my heart as a mom because here she is trying as hard as she can, and we drove back to the visitor’s center with the driver and he let us know that they were about 250 short again last year, and Cady said, ‘They’re never going to be short again. I’m making it a point they’re never going to be short again.'”

So this year, the Smeltzers created Freedom’s Cadence.” The group once again teamed up with Wreaths Across America.

“She started her mission at 150 [wreaths] and we said, ‘150 is a lofty goal when last year you were only at 56 and she’s like, ‘Mama, that cemetery is going to be filled this year. I know it,'” said Vanessa.

“Each person gets a Christmas present this year,” says Cadence.

For every two wreaths you buy, Cadence will put in another wreath for free. So far, she is up to more than 550 wreaths, but she needs double that to fill Yorktown National Cemetery.

With the public’s help, and her heart, there is no doubt this child of change can reach her goal.

“I want to have that whole cemetery filled because they all fought for one thing, and that was our freedom,” says Cadence.

The wreaths are $15 each.

To donate to Freedom’s Cadence, click here.

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