Hundreds honor fallen soldiers with wreaths at Oakwood Cemetery in Raleigh

Wake County News

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — On Saturday, hundreds of people came together to honor fallen soldiers at Oakwood Cemetery for their eighth annual Wreath Across America Day.

Family members and volunteers laid wreaths on the graves of veterans.

Two of those graves belong to Charlene Stell’s parents.

“Dad was in World War II and he was in the communications group,” said Stell. “Mom was worked on airplanes, so she was like a Rosie the Riveter.”

Stell said she cherishes this annual event as another way to honor his parents and everyone else who fought for our freedom.  

“It just means so much to me to see all of the people here, all of the children because they’re learning what it is and really what it is these people fought for to keep us free,” said Stell.

“Some of these people get forgotten and some of the people buried here don’t have family nearby and to have somebody put a wreath on their grave and say their name and maybe go home and look them up, it brings them to life. It makes them a real person and not just a headstone,” she added.

Organizers said when they held the first ceremony eight years ago, they only had a dozen wreaths and a handful of attendees.

The number of wreaths has grown to more than 1,300.

“To get it to grow, all you have to do is tell people about it,” said volunteer Sue Purkis. “Once people understand what Wreaths Across America is, they want to do this. They want to come.”

She said it’s also a great way to educate people about veterans and what they go through, along with their family members.

“Even if someone goes off to war and they come back, they’re changed and their family is changed. We always honor the veterans and we should, but we also need to honor the families because they’re as impacted as those servicemen and women that we have,” said Purkis.

Last year, nearly 1.8 million wreaths were placed on the headstones of veterans around the country.

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