— While many know of Arlington National Cemetery as being a famous burial place for those who served the country, there are many individuals in the community who are unaware that a national, military cemetery is situated just south of Genesee County in Holly. Great Lakes National Cemetery, 4200 Belford Rd., serves as the final resting place for more than 10,000 military members from Michigan.
As way of honoring those who served, Flint Township resident Dawn Vanderhyde and her family, along with another area family, are working with Wreaths Across America to ensure members of the military buried at Great Lakes National Cemetery receive recognition. Wreaths Across America, a non profit 501- c3 organization, was formed as an extension of the Arlington Wreath Project and started by Morrill Worcester (Worcester Wreath) in 1992 with the donation and laying of 5,000 Christmas wreaths to Arlington National Cemetery.
For Vanderhyde, the decision to become involved in Wreaths Across America was personal. Her father passed away in December 2007 and prior to dying, he had heard about Great Lakes National Cemetery and since he was a veteran, made arrangements to be interred there.
“In December 2008, we took a family vacation to my dad’s favorite vacation place and when we got home, it was after the wreath laying in the cemetery and there was one on my dad’s headstone,” Vanderhyde said. After seeing the wreaths, she researched it online, discovering how her father had been selected to receive a wreath.
“It was very touching because it was so beautiful to find all of the wreaths there,” she said.
Last year, Vanderhyde and her family decided to become more involved in Wreaths Across America.
“We are now in our second year of accepting donations for Wreaths Across America,” she said. “Last year, 2,008 wreaths were placed at the cemetery.” Out of those 2,008 wreaths, Vanderhyde’s groups efforts were responsible for 133.
This year, Vanderhyde’s group has a goal of personally raising enough money to purchase 175-200 wreaths for the cemetery and the upcoming wreath laying ceremony on Dec. 11. In total, only 600 wreaths have been reserved for the cemetery. “We definitely want to break the 2,000 mark,” she said.
To help raise awareness of the event and to purchase wreaths, Vanderhyde’s family has held several fundraising events at local businesses. The group’s next fundraising event is a gift wrapping event from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Nov. 27 at Borders on Miller Rd. The group will be accepting donations for gift wrapping purchases. They will return to Borders Dec. 4-5 for two more days of gift wrapping for donations. For a $15 donation, individuals or businesses can purchase a wreath.
“If people know someone who is buried there, our kids ask for the names and they research on the national cemetery locator to find out where they are located in the cemetery, and we place a wreath on the headstone,” Vanderhyde said.
The deadline for individuals and small businesses to place orders for wreaths with Vanderhyde’s group is Dec. 6. Individuals and businesses also can order wreaths online by visiting www.wreathsacrossamerica. org, clicking “Sponsor a Wreath,” selecting “MIchigan” for the state, then selecting “Great Lakes National Cemetery Holly (MIGLNH)” for the location, then “Michigan” for the fundraising group location and finally inputting “MINVP2P01” for the Group ID. Corporate sponsorships also are available. Checks can be made out to: Wreaths Across America.
“It is necessary for this information to be with the order to ensure a wreath being earmarked for Great Lakes National Cemetery,” Vanderhyde said. “If someone would like a wreath placed specifically on a loved ones gravesite, they will need to contact me directly to purchase the wreath. We will then obtain the name of the fallen soldier, look them up on the National Gravesite Registry and place a wreath at their headstone. If a wreath is ordered through the website, it cannot be done. It must be ordered through our group.”
The group also is accepting the Community Share Points from VG’s receipts to help purchase wreaths. “We have an account set up with VG’s that will provide a penny for every point we turn in,” Vanderhyde said. “So far, this year we have received $288 from VG’s.” The receipts can be dropped off at the Borders event, or individuals can contact Vanderhyde to make arrangements.
The wreath laying ceremony is noon Dec. 11 is free and open to the public. “People can come out and help place the wreaths,” she said. The Great Lakes National Cemetery wreath laying ceremony coincides with simultaneous wreath laying ceremonies at more than 350 locations all across the world.
Details: Call Vanderhyde at 810-230-1164 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.