Add a wreath for a fallen veteran to your shopping list: deadline is Nov. 29
As Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Giving Tuesday are all looming ahead for hungry shoppers, there’s also an initiative to honor local veterans worthy of your investment, Matthew Moscato says.
Wreaths Across America is a project to ensure that those veterans who have served and died are commemorated with a red-ribbon accented pine wreath during a yearly ceremony every December. This year that event is set for noon Dec. 17 at the Western New York National Cemetery, 1254 Indian Falls Road, Corfu.
And while Wreaths Across America is, as it implies, a national effort, Moscato’s Veterans Outreach Club at Pembroke Junior-Senior High School is selling the wreaths locally to also benefit the WNY National Cemetery Memorial Council, a non-profit entity that runs many of the events at the National Cemetery.
“We have 40 to 50 students, it’s the largest club at the school,” Moscato said to The Batavian. “We do a ton of stuff; our kids really wanted to promote this. The Memorial Council is in charge, and our kids play a role in helping with that. They’ve gone to the community collecting donations for the wreaths.”
They have so far collected enough for 450 wreaths, with a total need of about 1,300 this year, he said. Students volunteer to participate during the annual ceremony by helping visitors get around the large cemetery grounds, passing out wreaths and being on hand to assist with other duties. They also participate in a detail one week out of each year to take down, inspect and raise flags for the revered Avenue of Flags, he said.
“They’ve been very enthusiastic about it” he said. “They’re very integrally involved.”
For every $15 wreath sold, $5 goes to the Council to offset expenses related to the cemetery, such as maintaining U.S. flags for the Avenue of Flags and providing uniforms for the Honor Guard.
Moscato, a teacher at the school and this year’s Wreaths Across America coordinator, began the club a few years ago, and it has been growing in size and scope ever since. The group recently created a Wall of Honor for all Pembroke graduates who went into the military. An entire hallway has been dedicated for that project, and more than 230 plaques — made at the school — hang on the walls with those students’ names on them, he said.
“We held an opening ceremony that hundreds attended and many flew in from around the country to be there,” he said. “The Pembroke Veterans Outreach Club is a community service club that works to ‘honor our local veterans.’
“Our club is a pure community service club, we make no money from it,” he said. “We want to make sure there are 100 percent enough wreaths for the veterans. The kids are really excited. Being in the school district that the cemetery is in, it plays an important role … and the kids are definitely doing their part.”
Pembroke Veterans Outreach Club is selling wreaths for this event, with the goal of having a wreath placed on every headstone in the cemetery for the holiday season, Moscato said. He is also on the WNY National Cemetery Council. The Outreach Club plays a major role in hosting this public event, which includes a short ceremony with a couple of speakers, followed by community members laying wreaths on the headstones of graves.
“This is the same ceremony that takes place in Arlington,” he said. “I’m sure you have seen the iconic pictures of the wreaths on the graves there. This is the same ceremony right here in Western New York.”
Go HERE to sponsor one or more wreaths, or send cash or checks to: Veterans Outreach Club, Pembroke Jr-Sr High School, P.O. Box 308, Corfu, NY, 14036. If more wreaths are purchased than are needed this year, the money will go toward next year's gravestones and ceremony, Moscato said. Deadline for ordering is Nov. 29.
Submitted photos of Pembroke students helping out at the WNY National Cemetery during last year's ceremony.
Video: Last year's ceremony.