Community Comes Together to Honor Veterans in Wreaths Across America Tribute in Tracy

TRACY -- "Taps" playing and a 21-gun salute marked the start of the 5th Annual Wreath Laying Ceremony at Tracy Public Cemetery.

"We're not here to decorate their graves. We're not here to remember their deaths. We are here to remember their lives," Julia Conover said.

The placing of wreaths on the graves of veterans is part of Wreaths Across America, a nationwide event held every year on December 15.

Conover has been coordinating the wreath laying for the last five years but for her, the day has extra meaning as a Gold Star Mother.

"My son was killed in Iraq and he's buried here in the section called Little Arlington," Conover said.

She said the goal is to make sure every veteran is remembered.

"They say you die twice. Once when you take your last breath when you die and the second time you die is when your name is forgotten," Conover said.

So, each veteran's name is said out loud before their wreath is laid.

Hundreds of people - young and old - volunteered to place 1,854 wreaths on veteran headstones.

Conover said the community's support is touching.

"It means as much to them as it does to us," Conover said.

While some came to pay their respects to all veterans, for others, it's personal.

"My sister is in the military and she has sacrificed a lot for her family, her friends and for her country so it really brings home to heart what this means to us," Tracy resident Crystal Soto said.

Whatever the reason, volunteers agree it's important to remember their service.

"They sacrificed for us. They're the reason we have our freedom today and so doing this honors them and that's why we do it," Conover said.

Each wreath is paid for through donations but there were not enough to cover all of the headstones. Nearly 250 went without.

The organization says they're working to make sure all 2,100 veterans have a wreath next year.

Donations for wreaths can be made HERE. 

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