Omaha National Cemetery couldn’t fit enough cars for everyone planning to lay a wreath on the grave of a veteran Saturday.
They gathered for Wreaths Across America, a movement aiming to place a wreath on the grave of as many veterans as possible. More than 1,400 cemeteries across the country participated almost simultaneously Saturday morning and early afternoon.
At Omaha National Cemetery, more than 2,000 people showed up, organizer Mary Blodgett said. Cars that couldn’t find a spot parked along Schram Road.
Blodgett ordered more than enough wreaths for the 1,322 veterans buried at the cemetery.
The extras were to ensure that those buried after the wreaths were laid were not left without one.
The wreaths will be removed Jan. 20.
A ceremony including a flag line, a moment of silence, the national anthem and a blessing of the wreaths began the event.
Families of veterans at the cemetery were given the first opportunity to lay wreaths at their loved ones’ graves.
Other visitors then followed suit at gravesites without one.
All were asked to say the name of the veteran they honored, and to occasionally think about them to keep their memory alive.
“It’s a beautiful thing to see people coming together as they have to honor the service, but more importantly to teach those young ones,” said Mike Fischer, a ride captain with Patriot Guard Riders.
The tradition began in 1992 at Arlington National Cemetery and has been growing ever since. Now, each second or third Saturday in December is National Wreaths Across America Day. The first in Nebraska was in 2006 at Forest Lawn Cemetery, near Omaha’s Florence neighborhood. It was moved after Omaha National Cemetery opened in 2016.
Nicholas Allen Loyd, 29, saw his father’s ashes moved to the cemetery on Saturday. Michael Wayne Loyd, a Marine during the Persian Gulf War, died in 2012, a few days before his 52nd birthday .
Loyd said the ceremony was about recognizing the sacrifices all veterans have made.
“It might not be just for him, but I like to think that everyone is here for my dad today,” Loyd said. “I don’t think that this is what people that go into the military expect or want, but they deserve it.”
Each wreath consisted of 10 bouquets, Blodgett said during the ceremony, representing veterans’ faith, love, work ethic, honesty, humility, ambitions, optimism for the country, concerns for the future, pride and hopes and dreams.
Omaha National Cemetery’s event was one of 12 in Nebraska.
Ceremonies were also held at Mt. Calvary Cemetery in Elkhorn and the Offutt Air Force Base Cemetery.
Other Nebraska events were in Lincoln, Fremont, Grand Island, Pawnee City, Falls City, Elwood, Valentine, Hemingford and at Fort McPherson National Cemetery near North Platte.
After the ceremony, a woman who recently lost her husband, a veteran, told Blodgett that she was moved and that she plans to invite her family from across the country to next year’s event.
“That’s what it’s all about, right there,” Blodgett said.