Volunteers place wreaths at Camp Butler National Cemetery to honor soldiers

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It was cold and windy on Saturday morning as hundreds gathered at Camp Butler National Cemetery. Family members hugged and rubbed their hands together for warmth as veterans fired a 21-gun salute.

And Arlene Beck readied herself to lay wreaths at the graves of soldiers she had never met and never heard of before that day.

She came to volunteer with Wreaths Across America, a group which raises money and coordinates volunteers to lay wreaths on tombstones at national cemeteries around the country.

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“It means the world to me to help,” Beck said. “They gave us our freedom.”

Beck holds a special place for veterans and for Camp Butler.

“My father and uncle are on the other side,” she said, pointing across a small hill where they are buried.

Wreaths Across America volunteer Arlene Beck places a wreath at Camp Butler National Cemetery on Saturday.
Wreaths Across America volunteer Arlene Beck places a wreath at Camp Butler National Cemetery on Saturday.

Beck and about 700 other volunteers placed more than 8,000 wreaths on Saturday, each paid for by private donations. Libby Conroy, the volunteer site coordinator for Wreaths Across America, said that she is proud of how many wreaths they were able to display, but she hopes to someday have a wreath for the more than 20,000 graves at the cemetery.

The event featured the wreath distribution as well as a program of prayer and speeches to honor the dead.

“How can we live up to their legacy?” asked retired Capt. Robert Stampf in a speech to the crowd.

“They put service before themselves,” he said. “They put service to country ahead of themselves. They put service to community above themselves.”

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Stampf added that he hoped to honor not only the American soldiers buried at Camp Butler but the prisoners of war buried there as well.

“Ruhe in Frieden (rest in peace),” he said, commemorating German soldiers from World War II who are laid to rest there.

“We come from different backgrounds, different beliefs, different upbringings,” said Stampf. “But we’re all in this together.”

Conroy and the staff of the cemetery have asked for volunteers on Jan. 22 to help pick up the wreaths. More information about the local group can be found at its Facebook page, facebook.com/WAACampButler/.

This article originally appeared on State Journal-Register: Wreaths placed at Camp Butler National Cemetery to honor soldiers

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