High school student is on a mission to honor military veterans buried at national cemeteries

FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. -- Later this month, the National Cemetery at Fort Leavenworth will be the site of a solemn and moving ceremony.  Wreaths will be placed at thousands of the headstones of the military veterans buried there as part of a nationwide project called Wreaths Across America.  This week’s FOX 4 Reaching 4 Excellence Young Achiever is a champion of that important and meaningful project.

Walking late in the afternoon among the graves of American military men and women buried at the National Cemetery at Fort Leavenworth, 22,000 of them dating back to the 1860s, Brooke Werp found herself deep in thought, awestruck by the history and the heroic service.

“When I’m here at the cemetery,” said Brooke, this week’s FOX 4 Reaching 4 Excellence Young Achiever, “it really brings me to a place where I can actually comprehend the sacrifices that have been made for me and how people fought for our freedom. It’s just a really touching place.”

Brooke is a champion for a cause that honors those generations of service and sacrifice. She’s a benefactor of Wreaths Across America. Each year on one Saturday in December at all of the National Cemeteries, Wreaths Across America has a moving ceremony and places wreaths at the marble headstones.

“That’s really important to me,” said Brooke, “that people are really grasping at the idea that it’s so easy to forget.”

Brooke did an impressive major fund-raising event called Christmas in July for Wreaths Across America at her home last summer.

“It was great,” said Brooke. “We raised around $4,000.”

Brooke also did numerous speaking engagements and other events where she got donations and raised a total of $7,000 which she presented to local Wreaths Across America representatives last month.

“That will be equivalent to 700 wreaths,” said Brooke. 700 more wreaths to bring the number of decorated headstones at the National Cemetery at Fort Leavenworth to 4,000.

“I’ll just be super happy with how everyone will honor each grave,” said Brooke.

Brooke’s strong focus on supporting the Wreaths Across America project comes from her involvement in The National Society of the Children of the American Revolution. Brooke’s not just involved in that youth leadership and patriotism organization. She’s the Kansas president of it.

“We’re actually making a difference,” said Brooke, “and we’re actually teaching people, and little kids, our next generation, about how important it is to remember what has been done for you and what sacrifices people have made for you.”

The CAR has more than 10,000 members nationwide. And like its parent organization for women, The Daughters of the American Revolution, and The Sons of the American Revolution for men, it has local and national projects dedicated to advancing its mission. Brooke decided Wreaths Across America would be it for the Kansas CAR during her year as president and she has been tireless in promoting it.

“Brooke has been amazing,” said Diana Pitts of the local Wreaths Across America organization. “And it’s really touched her heart. I can see that.”

Pitts is a military mom who lost one of her sons ten years ago in the war in Iraq. Her personal remarks at last year’s Wreaths Across America ceremony at Fort Leavenworth inspired Brooke to take up the cause. And now Brooke is inspiring Pitts and others who are so deeply involved in Wreaths Across America.

“She has grown tremendously in her ability to do public speaking,” said Pitts. “She has a heart. I’ve seen her cry when she’s heard stories we’ve told her about some of the veterans interred here and some of the stories we’ve heard over the years. And she’s just been an amazing young woman. Nowadays we wonder sometimes how many kids really understand the cost behind the freedoms that they have. And it’s important for kids like Brooke to be around and help and to get involved because when you’ve actually had a loss in your family you know that they are going to pick up where you left off and they’re not going to be forgotten and that their sacrifice will be known.”

And because of Brooke, heroes will be remembered.

“They made our lives how they are today,” said Brooke. And wreaths will decorate 700 more of their eternal resting places.
This year’s Wreaths Across America ceremony at the National Cemetery at Fort Leavenworth is scheduled for Saturday, December 17th at 11:00 a.m. Here’s a link that will get you to the local Wreaths Across America Facebook page for information.

And here are links to the various patriotic, U.S. history and leadership organizations mentioned in the report:

The Children of the American Revolution

The Daughters of the American Revolution

The Sons of the American Revolution

FOX 4 News is Working 4 You to spotlight outstanding young people and their positive accomplishments.  In our weekly report called Reaching 4 Excellence we meet young achievers in subjects like academics, the arts, leadership, community service, volunteerism, career exploration, overcoming obstacles and heroism.  Watch for Reaching 4 Excellence every Wednesday on FOX 4 News at 9 p.m. and every Thursday on FOX 4 News at 8 a.m. and noon.