SARASOTA COUNTY – Wreaths Across America Day will be spread across two days, Dec. 17 and Dec. 18, at Sarasota National Cemetery this year, in part to allow for COVID-19 social distancing requirements.
All participants in the wreath-laying must preregister for their time slot, with families given priority for daytime slots on both days, said Location Coordinator Meshia Richardson, chairperson for Wreaths Across America in Sarasota County.
In all, 17,200 wreaths will be placed at grave sites this year, to honor the service of those buried on site.
As part of the ceremony, a loved one or volunteer says the name of each veteran aloud along with a thanks for their service and sacrifice.
“We do it with a lot of respect,” Richardson said. “Everyone should leave the cemetery feeling very humbled and honored they were allowed to participate.”
Season of Sharing: Grant helps North Port family through a tough time with rent assistance
More than 27,000 service members and spouses – including more than 22,000 veterans – are buried at the cemetery, some of them in double grave sites.
Sarasota National Cemetery is at 9810 State Road 72, east of Sarasota. The ceremony is private because of COVID-19, though a virtual ceremony will be posted on YouTube and other social media.
The wreaths will cover every monument and column and row of niches within the columned area, she added.
Last year, during COVID-19, the ceremony was spread across three days but a change in guidelines allow for more people at Sarasota National Cemetery, though parking is always at a premium.
So everything can flow smoothly, everyone who wishes to lay a wreath at a grave site must register for a specific time slot at https://sarasotawreaths.com/2021; those who have not been vaccinated for COVID-19 must wear a mask.
“We’re getting full on certain time slots,” said Richardson, who added that mornings are first reserved to relatives of those buried at the cemetery. In addition to registering, they should include the name of the loved one they plan on remembering, so volunteers know to wait for their arrival.
“Friday afternoon we have timeframes for the public, general volunteers to come in and lay a wreath in specified sections,” she added. “We don’t want to lay a wreath where someone is going to come in on Saturday morning during family-first time to lay a wreath.”
Forty-six groups raise funds year-round to purchase the veterans remembrance wreaths.
Sponsorships can be purchased at https://sarasotawreaths.com/wreath-sponsorship with one wreath paid for by a $15 tax-deductible donation, or $30 for two. Money raised on the site through 11:59 p.m. will be applied to wreaths used on Dec. 17-18, while any donations received after that will be applied to the 2022 effort.
“For us to be able to make and have veterans' remembrance wreaths on every monument, I need to do this all year long,” Richardson said.
Earle Kimel primarily covers south Sarasota County for the Herald-Tribune and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Support local journalism with a digital subscription to the Herald-Tribune.
This article originally appeared on Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Wreaths Across America set for Dec. 17-18 at Sarasota National Cemetery