Boy Scout Troop 120 of Shippensburg will take part in the Wreaths Across America program this year, decorating the graves, and remembering the thousands of brave men and women laid to rest at Fort Indiantown Gap National Cemetery. The idea was presented to the 28-member troop and their leaders earlier this year, and their immediate response was to sponsor 120 wreaths (for 120 Veterans, for troop 120).
To reach this goal, troop members walked in the Veterans Day parade and handed out fliers in hopes of spreading the word about the project, and hopefully collect sponsors for the wreaths.
“Being their first time participating in something like this, and not having any idea what kind of impact this would make, they figured 120 wreaths would be a good goal to start with,” said Claudia Garner, Scout mom of Caden Garner. “The troop has a sponsorship page, and combined with social media and the fliers, they have actually surpassed their original goal of 120. In fact, they have almost tripled their original goal as of earlier this week, which is fantastic!”
She said the response and support from the community has been great, and the troop is really appreciative of everyone who has helped to sponsor wreaths.
The Garner family has participated in the Wreaths Across America program for the past five years, after being inspired by their dear friends, Matt and Jeannie Tobia. Matt is a deputy fire chief in Harrisonburg, Virginia. They have helped to place wreaths on graves at Arlington National Cemetery, and this year wanted to take part at Fort Indiantown Gap Cemetery.
“There are literally thousands of volunteers who participate at Arlington National Cemetery each year, which is great, but there are only a couple hundred volunteers who participate at Fort Indiantown Gap,” Garner said. “While it doesn’t take as long, you may only place a few wreaths on the graves at Arlington, which is still a great thing, but because there aren’t as many volunteers at Fort Indiantown Gap, it takes longer, and you have the opportunity to lay more wreaths on the graves, and it is such an honor to be able to do this for our Veterans.”
There are 42,000 gravesites at Fort Indiantown Gap, and as of Tuesday night, 26,000 wreaths have been sponsored.
Members of Troop 120 will leave for Fort Indiantown Gap on Thursday morning, Dec. 14, and attend the opening ceremony before being sent out to place wreaths on the graves.
Garner said cemetery caretakers will have already strategically placed so many wreaths in different sections, and the boys will go to those areas and place them on each of the graves in the designated sections.
“There is a formal process in which to lay the wreaths,” Garner explained. “When you walk up to a headstone, you say the name aloud because they say a person dies twice -- once in their physical death, and then when people stop saying their name, so you walk up to the tombstone and say the person’s name aloud. You can say a prayer if you like, and then you lay the wreath with the bow at the top, at a 45-degree angle, propped against the headstone, and then give a Scout’s salute.”
She said it’s a very touching, very formal process, and has such a profound effect on whoever may be placing the wreath.
“It’s an incredible experience, very humbling and very powerful in so many different ways. When you stand there and look out over all the graves and see all the pearly white headstones, and then the sea of green and red, it’s a very moving experience, and one that I know these boys will never forget. It’s very powerful and yet, very heartbreaking because these graves represent so many families that have served our country and have paid the ultimate sacrifice It’s very moving anytime you can do something like this. But, at Christmastime it takes on a whole new meaning that is just very humbling and very beautiful.”
She said being Scouts of service, this will be a very special service project for the troop.
“It’s something incredible for the troop to be part of. It’s always great when you can be a part of something bigger than yourself, and for this group of young men to go and be part of a service like this is very special.”
Taking part in the program will count as community service hours for each of the Scouts, counting toward a particular rank.
The deadline for sponsoring wreaths for Troop 120 is Monday, Dec. 2. There is a cost to sponsor a wreath, and for every two wreaths sponsored, a third wreath will be placed on behalf of Troop 120. If you would like to join Troop 120 in honoring our servicemen and women at Fort Indiantown Gap by sponsoring a wreath or wreaths, visit Troop 120’s group page at:
www.wreathsacrossamerica.org/PA0451P, or see any Scout leader to complete a sponsorship form.