Community Works Through the Night to Replace Wreaths

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They're calling it a Christmas miracle. People worked in the middle of the night Thursday to put holiday wreaths at the National Cemetery back on the Veterans' graves.

The wreaths were placed on the headstones of those buried in the Fort Smith National Cemetery as part of the annual Christmas Honors program at the beginning of December. Most of the wreaths were blown off during Wednesday night's storm.

Philip Merry, who helps organize the annual program, estimates close to 90% of the wreaths were displaced by the strong wind.

"At 7:25 [Friday morning] I stopped in my car here and it was done," Merry said. "It was done. At 5:15 [Thursday] night, this place didn't look like this."

Merry was overwhelmed by the community's response. He said it brought him to tears Friday morning.

"We don't know who did this," Merry explained. "There are reports that the Fort Smith Police Department came out. Senior citizen groups bussed in. A mom and her kids. I just....I can't believe my eyes."

Merry stood at the gates of the National Cemetery Friday morning, where he told people coming in to help that the work was already done.

"They can't believe it," Merry said. "They're coming out to help, and there's nothing to do."

Instead, Merry's telling people to enjoy the wreaths and take a moment to reflect on the lives lost.

Organizers are also asking the community to help straighten up bows as well as remove debris that was blown around in the storm.

The 4th annual Christmas Honors was held on Dec. 8. Hundreds of volunteers prepped the more than 13,000 wreaths and those who have loved ones buried in the cemetery were allowed to come out and place them during a special ceremony.

Organizers say the event would not be possible without volunteers and resources.

There are several ways to help whether it’s through monetary donations or by volunteering.

Organizers say each year they need to purchase additional wreaths and headstones for those laid to rest in the cemetery during the previous year. Some of the artificial wreaths have to be replaced due to wear.

Monetary donations are accepted at the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce located at 612 Garrison Ave.

Please make all checks/payments payable to “Christmas Honors” c/o the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce. Tax id #: 71-0029620.

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