LEAVENWORTH, Kan. — At Leavenworth National Cemetery, wreathes were laid on the graves of fallen soldiers after metro volunteers came out to pay their respects.
It was for the annual holiday wreath laying ceremony for Wreathes Across America. Friends, family, and perfect strangers filled the fields of the cemetery to set them down, fix their bows, and thank each veteran for their service.
“It’s wonderful to be here amongst all the servicemen,” retired veteran, Ernie Torok said. “I’m just honored to be here.”
Torok came with his son, who is also a veteran, and their close family members. Torok served in the Army for thirty years before he retired.
A family from Platte City came to participate with their mother’s employer. The parents said they recently moved to the area, and jumped at the opportunity to help. Their 11-year-old son and 15-year-old daughter laid their own wreaths and said it meant so much for them to honor American heroes.
Leslie Gramkow served in the Army more than twenty years, and came with his daughter.
“I think having served there is a special bond with those who have also served, and speaking for myself and my family, it’s not just a job it’s a way of life,” Gramkow said.
During his time in the Army he, and his family, lived in many different places including Germany. He says, while he doesn’t know the veteran he’s laying a wreath for today, they share a connection.
“You just have that bond because you know what these deceased veterans lived through in their lives as well during their time of service, however long or however short,” Gramkow said.
Both Gramkow and Torok said even though it’s not Memorial Day, it’s a day to reflect on the lives of men and women just like them.
“It’s kind of a bit of giving back in a sense, and also knowing that this could be you at the end of your life here as a deceased veteran,” Gramkow said.
“Just because it’s something we can do to honor these people,” Torok said. “Hopefully someone will honor me for my service.”
Wreaths Across America is put together by the Worcester Wreath Company. They have been donating holiday wreaths in 2006, and it’s a continuing tradition. For more information visit: https://www.wreathsacrossamerica.org/.