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Wreaths sought for veterans’ graves in North Huntingdon

Joe Napsha
gtrhunt002082817
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Rhonda Hunt, Wreaths Across America location coordinator, visits Union Cemetery in North Huntingdon on Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017. Hunt hopes to raise funds to place about 1,300 wreaths on deceased veterans' headstones at the cemetery as part of National Wreaths Across America Day in December.

Rhonda Hunt is on a mission to place memorial wreaths on the graves of close to 2,100 veterans buried in two North Huntingdon cemeteries this holiday season.

Donations so far have raised enough to buy more than 1,500 wreaths through the nonprofit Wreaths Across America , leaving Hunt more than 500 short of her goal.

Hunt, who is a Wreaths Across America location coordinator has until Friday to raise money through online donations for the additional wreaths, which cost $15 each.

“It’s beyond belief, the response we’ve received for the first year,” said Hunt, 55, of North Huntingdon. “It’s been tremendous.”

The wreaths are intended for veterans buried at Irwin Union and Immaculate Conception cemeteries, which are along Pennsylvania Avenue. They will be placed on the graves Dec. 16 — the third Saturday in December, which is designated as National Wreaths Across America Day.

The annual event began in 1992 when a Maine company donated 5,000 pine wreaths to Virginia’s Arlington National Cemetery. Wreaths Across America officially formed as an organization in 2007. More than 1,200 locations in all 50 states now participate each year.

Irwin Union Cemetery is the final resting place for about 1,300 veterans, and Immaculate Conception Cemetery has more than 700 veterans buried on its grounds, Hunt said. The cemeteries contain graves of veterans dating back as far as the Civil War.

If donations fall short to buy enough wreaths, Hunt said red bows will be placed on some graves to ensure all veterans in the cemeteries receive recognition.

The evergreen wreaths will remain on the graves until Jan. 31, Hunt said.

Most veterans’ graves in the two cemeteries have been marked with small American flags, Hunt said. However, no maps exist showing where all of the veterans are buried or the location of where any specific veteran is buried.

Anyone who wants to donate for a wreath for a specific veteran should join volunteers placing wreaths on Dec. 16, Hunt said.

The laying of the wreaths will be preceded by a noon ceremony at Irwin Union Cemetery’s veterans memorial. North Huntingdon Police Officer Mark Hamilton, a member of the Pennsylvania Air National Guard, will speak and the Veterans of Foreign Wars J. Howard Snyder Post 781 of North Huntingdon will provide the honor guard.

About 200 people have volunteered to place the wreaths, including members of the Norwin High School Junior Air Force ROTC and Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops, Hunt said.

Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-5252 or [email protected]

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