A wreath at every grave — NJ volunteers heading to West Point
One week ahead of a nationwide day of remembrance, a bus full of New Jersey volunteers is heading to New York to lay wreaths on the graves of those who fought for our country.
And it wouldn't be possible without the efforts of a 16-year-old high school student from Holmdel and a fund created in honor of a young man who was killed in action by a roadside bomb 14 years ago.
"When people stop saying my son's name it'll be like he didn't exist," said Marion Zilinski, secretary of the Lt. Dennis W. Zilinski II Memorial Fund.
Dennis Zilinski, of Middletown, died in Iraq at the age of 23. A fund in his name, which provides support to service members, veterans and their families, is leading a trip Saturday to West Point Cemetery, where Zilinski is buried.
There, the volunteers from the Jersey Shore will assist in a wreath-laying ceremony as part of Wreaths Across America. The West Point event occurs earlier in December than the official Wreaths Across America "day" so that cadets can be present. On Dec. 14, ceremonies at more than 1,900 veterans' cemeteries are scheduled throughout the country and globe.
"This is giving back to the very men and women that really give us our freedom," Marion Zilinski said.
The Fund's effort was ignited by one of their scholarship recipients, Jordan Codispoti, a Trinity Hall High School junior who championed a sponsorship drive and secured funding for more than 825 wreaths.
"I've been instilled with patriotism since I was young, and it's just become a part of me," Codispoti said. "It's my duty as an American to pass it on from generation to generation."
"We live in a society now where a lot of people are takers, and when you get a young girl at this age that wants to give back, it makes me feel good. That's exactly how my son was," Marion Zilinski said.
None of the 7,050 military graves at West Point Cemetery will go uncovered this holiday season thanks in part to a $10,000 donation from the Fund to Wreaths Across America. The donation will also assist with next year's wreath placements at the cemetery.
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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at firstname.lastname@example.org