The Gold Star Wives, Eagles Chapter of Fort Campbell raises funds each year to place fresh wreaths on the graves of fallen soldiers buried at the Kentucky Veterans Cemetery West, just across the Kentucky state line from Fort Campbell.
More than half of the veterans buried at the cemetery are from Tennessee.
“Our goal each year is to place a wreath on every veteran’s grave,” said Gold Star wife Hazel Morrison. “Our deadline for fundraising for this year is Nov. 30.”
Many family members of the veterans buried at the cemetery help support the wreath drive, but there’s not enough funds to cover all the veterans’ stones without the fundraising efforts of the Gold Star Wives.
The wreaths cost $15 apiece, and donors have the opportunity to purchase two and get one free in honor of a veteran. The wreaths are made from fresh balsam fir.
In Kentucky, Morrison said 3,200 gravestones will be in need of wreaths this year. Some of the veterans are cremated and have no marker.
A ceremony to lay the wreaths is scheduled for Dec. 14 at 11 a.m. at the Kentucky Veterans Cemetery West on Fort Campbell Boulevard between the post and Hopkinsville, Kentucky.
“This is our 10th year to be involved in raising funds for the wreaths,” Morrison said. “We want to place a wreath on every in-ground grave at the cemetery, if possible.”
The Gold Star Wives, Eagles Chapter of Fort Campbell were asked to help raise funds for wreaths in 2010 for the Kentucky Veterans Cemetery West. It is part of a national effort entitled Wreaths Across America.
The national nonprofit organization sprang from the owner of a wreath company in Maine, who began placing the wreaths on veteran’s graves one year when he had a surplus of the fresh wreaths left over following the holiday season.
In the early 2000s, the effort to place fresh wreaths on veterans’ graves gained momentum when a photo of Arlington National Cemetery was circulated on the internet.
The photo showed the white stones covered in snow, with a beautiful green wreath tied with a large red bow at the top laid on each stone. Arlington National Cemetery places more than 300,000 wreaths on its stones each year.
Hazel Morrison’s husband died 16 years ago. Sgt. 1st Class Lee Morrison served in the U.S. Army from 1956 until 1977, when he retired.
Lee and Hazel Morrison met at a dance in Pennsylvania after mutual friends introduced them.
They married in November 1957 and were married for 46 years.
Hazel Morrison had three brothers who served in World War II. Her brother, Dale Walker, was killed in the Battle of the Bulge. Walker was trained at Fort Campbell before he was shipped overseas, she said.
“The military is very, very dear to me,” Morrison said. “My mother and daddy gave up a lot.”
The deadline to raise the funding for the wreaths this year is Nov. 30, according to Morrison.
“We will have to get our order in by then,” Morrison said. “The number of wreaths increases by about 200 each year.”
Anyone who would like to contribute by purchasing a wreath, make a check payable to the Kentucky Veterans Cemetery Wreath Trust Inc., 2249 Dunbar Road, Woodlawn, TN 37191. Hazel Morrison is the treasurer. Her contact number is 931-920-2775.