It was a clear crisp afternoon at the Northern California Veterans Cemetery in Igo yesterday. Precise rows of headstones stood in military-perfect formation.
Names, ranks, military branches, birthdays and death dates were carved upon each gravestone, a lasting tribute to the north state veterans and their spouses for whom the cemetery is their final resting place.
The cemetery is barely two years old, but the grounds are already dotted with more than 1,000 headstones. This doesn’t count recent burials that await markers, or the veterans’ remains that are held in urns.
A few graves were decorated with poinsettias, small Christmas trees and wreaths, but the majority were without adornment.
Not for long.
By Saturday morning, a fresh wreath will rest upon every headstone, and upon the nearby mausoleum walls.
It’s an ambitious project, but Staff Sgt. Cathy Strudle, the cemetery’s honor guard team leader, is confident that it’s possible, with the community’s help.
She said the Rotary Club of Anderson generously answered the call and donated about $1,000 toward ribbon and other wreath-making supplies. Live boughs will form the wreaths’ foundations.
All that’s left is for someone to form the boughs into wreaths and tie them with a simple bow.
“These aren’t fancy wreaths,” Strudle said. “They’re real simple wreaths made of freshly cut limbs. The idea is to honor our fallen comrades with as much dignity and respect as we can.”
Strudle invited us to help with the wreath-assembly project inside the cemetery’s maintenance building, Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. until around 5 p.m. Veterans Cemetery on Gas Point Road/Veterans Memorial Drive in Igo.
I’ll be there Monday and Thursday at 8 a.m.
Feel free to join me, or come any time during the week that works for you. Bring gloves and any snippers or tools you like to make wreaths. Dress warmly in work clothes that you won’t mind getting covered in pitch. Some chairs will be provided, but it wouldn’t hurt to bring a folding chair, just in case, or anything else you might need.
This wreath project offers us the rare opportunity to give of our ourselves in a small way to our departed north state veterans.
They gave so much of themselves for us.
The wreaths recognize them and their sacrifice. They help show we’ve not forgotten them during this holiday season, or ever.