About 75 people gathered Saturday in Omaha’s Forest Lawn Cemetery to lay Christmas wreaths at the graves of U.S. military veterans.
Hand-warmers were passed out, and the speakers’ breaths clouded the air.
William Ramsey didn’t complain. “It was colder in Korea,” said the Marine Corps veteran.
Ramsey was one of many veterans who participated in Wreaths Across America. The Omaha event was one of 800 nationwide, including 10 others in Nebraska and six in Iowa.
The ceremonies aim to remember, honor and teach about veterans and military service.
Ramsey, selected to place a wreath in honor of Marines who have died, received a Purple Heart after being wounded in Korea in 1951. Shrapnel severely damaged his right arm.
He said he got “choked up” when he learned that his grandson, Spc. Michael Pagett, would be assisting him. Pagett served a tour in Afghanistan with the Army National Guard.
“I am proud of my grandson and the tremendous patriots of the Omaha-Council Bluffs area,” he said. “There are not any other veterans like the people from this beautiful place.”
After a brief ceremony that included remarks from Mayor Jean Stothert, 77 evergreen wreaths with red bows were laid on individual veterans’ graves. The Patriot Guard Riders stood in a flag line.
Mary Blodgett of Omaha coordinated the event for the eighth year in a row.
She learned of Wreaths Across America while reading a Reader’s Digest article. Blodgett was moved by the story, and she called to donate money for a wreath. While on the phone, a representative convinced her to undertake the project in the Omaha area.
Only 15 people attended the first ceremony. Now it has grown to an annual event that Blodgett looks forward to each holiday season.
She said it has a special meaning for her. “All these guys are awesome.”