By Teresa K. Hernandez, Editor | Tex Appeal Magazine
Photos by Priscilla Z Photography
December 15, eight years ago, after attending a Wreaths Across America ceremony at the Central Texas Veterans Cemetery, local realtor Jean Shine left disappointed when only six wreaths were placed for the six branches of the armed forces. “My heart just sank when I looked out across all those headstones–every one of them deserved a wreath,” said Jean.
As Jean left the cemetery, she became determined to get a wreath for every single headstone even if it meant she had to take matters into her own hands and buy them herself. Driving straight to the local Hobby Lobby—Jean discovered they only had a few wreaths left so late in the season. But refusing to give up, she got on the phone and started calling stores in Austin until she found one location that thought they still had a couple hundred wreaths. That was all Jean needed to hear as she picked up a moving truck and headed to Austin. Once she arrived and started going through the wreaths, it looked like they might not have enough—especially after she called back to the cemetery and learned she needed 398. “It was just a miracle. Here it was December 15th and not only did I find 398 wreaths, but they were all the perfect size and on sale. When I got back to Killeen, I headed over to Walmart for red bows—and again, another miracle. They had 400, amazingly enough–all matching, red bows that were the perfect size.” Additional phone calls were made and soon she had gathered a crowd to help fluff the wreaths and attach the bows and organized a group to help place them at the cemetery. “It was just a miracle that it all fell together so easy and fast,” says Jean.
Ever since, there has been an annual wreath laying ceremony at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery and a wreath placed at each and every headstone. With each passing year, the number of wreaths needed continues to rise, so Jean created Wreaths for Vets, a non-profit organization that raises donations to purchase the wreaths and bows.
“One hundred percent of the money goes to the wreaths. This year we are expecting to need approximately 5000 wreaths. We try to recycle, store, and reuse as many wreaths as possible every year. And a special thanks to Kenny Ray of Town Services in Killeen, for so generously providing us with a free 18-wheeler and sealed trailer to use as a storage building. But now we’re outgrowing it, and will have to build a large storage building to hang all the wreaths in.”
View full article: Tex Appeal Magazine