Wreaths will cover thousands of NJ veterans’ graves this weekend
New Jersey's fallen heroes get a special holiday nod Saturday as dozens of cemeteries throughout the state place donated wreaths on the graves of Garden State veterans.
The coordinated effort lines up with National Wreaths Across America Day. Over 200,000 wreaths will cover every grave at Arlington National Cemetery.
Point Pleasant resident Mel Russen, Jr. is sponsoring the remembrance events at four Jersey Shore-area cemeteries. Thanks to $15 donations from locals and others, 1,025 wreaths have been delivered for Russen's Saturday ceremonies.
"I would need several thousand wreaths in order to place one on every veteran's grave in those four cemeteries," said Russen, who also serves on the board of directors for Wreaths Across America.
The tradition began in 1992 when Worcester Wreath Company in Maine found themselves with a surplus of wreaths and considered it an opportunity to honor the country's veterans. Over time, the tribute received national attention and today the wreaths at more than 1,100 U.S. locations still come from the same spot in Maine.
In addition to wreaths for the Historic Osborn Cemetery in Brielle, seven wreaths are headed to Brielle Borough Hall — one for each branch of the military, according to Cathy Shalloo with the Bayberry Garden Club of Brielle.
"My husband was a Marine, and I have all kinds of relatives that served in World War II in various segments of the military, and it's my way of remembering them," Shalloo said.
On its way to Virginia, the Wreaths Across America convoy made two stops in New Jersey Wednesday. At the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Holmdel, Russen presented 23 remembrance wreaths to Gold Star families.
According to Russen, 1.2 million wreaths are expected to be laid on veterans' graves worldwide.
Wreaths Across America's slogan this year is #SayTheirNames. A person dies twice, the nonprofit says, once when they take their final breath, and later, the last time their name is spoken.
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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at email@example.com.