Wreaths Across America and Tioga County underway

Wreaths Across America and Tioga County underwayPictured is a wreath created by Ralph Trenchard that will soon be placed on a grave of a veteran that was Killed in Action, and buried in Tioga County. Provided photo.

This year’s Wreaths Across America and Wreaths Across Tioga County effort is underway, with the national organization’s delivery of wreaths arriving soon, and individual and group efforts taking place locally to ensure the placement of wreaths on veteran graves in time for Christmas.

In Tioga Cemetery, Billie Jo Slavik has been ensuring wreaths adorn all veteran graves, and is working with Wreaths Across America, a National effort to ‘Remember, Honor, Teach’.

A Newark Valley resident, Slavik has been taking care of the Tioga Cemetery for several years now, initially jumping into the effort to honor her many family members that served, and some of whom are buried there. Through a generous donation made by Lockheed Martin, and additional funding from Barney and Dickenson, Inc., Johnson’s Pools and Spas and Tioga State Bank, Slavik has been able to accomplish the placement of one wreath on every veteran grave in the Tioga Cemetery.

“There are 700 veterans in Tioga Cemetery alone,” said Slavik, adding that Wreaths Across America will be delivering the wreaths, with enough this year to also adorn the monuments within Tioga County’s Veterans Memorial at the Courthouse Square in Owego.

To coincide with the ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, a local event to place the wreaths at the Tioga County Veterans Memorial at the Courthouse Square is planned for Dec. 16 at noon, and where members from the community will present one for each period of wartime. This year, Slavik noted, she has an additional wreath that will be placed at the Civil War Monument, the towering granite memorial facing the Court Street Bridge.

“This is the first thing folks see as they cross the bridge,” said Slavik, adding, “Now it will have a wreath standing at its forefront to honor those it represents.”

The wreaths, she added, will remain at the memorial until approximately mid-January, weather dependent.

Immediately following the ceremony, she added, wreaths will be placed at the flags in the Tioga Cemetery, located on Route 17C in Owego, for the veterans buried there.

The public is welcome to attend the ceremony, and anyone interested in volunteering can register to support the efforts at www.wreathsacrossamerica.org/nytiog.

The National Wreaths Across America has a goal to ensure a wreath on every veteran grave for the holiday season. This initiative is broad, however, and empowers communities to take part.

Ralph Trenchard, a Modern Warfare Veteran that served for 18-months in Iraq, has been working an effort as well to ensure the placement of wreaths on the graves of those Killed in Action. Crafting each wreath individually, Trenchard has carried out this project since 2018, and following an Eagle Scout Project by his son Ryan.

For the project, they spent 78 hours and traveled 173 miles to identify Tioga County’s fallen heroes, those that were KIA. In total, Tioga County has 189 KIA from all wars that are buried within the county. The sites were then catalogued, and each with a GPS coordinate to help with wreath placement and location identification each year.

Once the wreaths are purchased locally and assembled, volunteers are then sent out for wreath placement.

For Slavik’s effort, the partnership with the national Wreaths Across America effort has enabled her to decorate all of the veteran graves in Tioga Cemetery thus far, and she hopes the initiative grows.

For $17 a wreath, the delivery will enable for a group effort that includes flagging and placement. And with a total of approximately 5,000 veterans buried in Tioga County, the national initiative of a wreath on ALL the graves of those that served would be a big undertaking.

Wreaths Across America and Tioga County underwaySlavik stated, however, that any cemetery that would like assistance in their efforts is welcome to call her at (607) 953-8536 to learn more.

And in the meantime, area volunteers like Newark Valley’s Kathy Briggs, who takes care of 118 graves in Hope Cemetery, continue to do their part, locally.

Trenchard is preparing to go out as well for wreath placement for those KIA.

Jim Raftis, Sr., Korean War veteran that has organized the wreath effort locally for years, stressed the importance of continuing this tradition to honor our veterans, and challenges teachers and students to partake in the wreath building project each year, and as a way to ‘Remember, Honor, Teach’.

You can learn more about Wreaths Across America online at https://www.wreathsacrossamerica.org/. You can also find Wreaths Across America – NYTiog-Tioga Cemetery on Facebook.

1 Comment on "Wreaths Across America and Tioga County underway"

  1. Karen Woodburn | December 15, 2023 at 2:30 pm | Reply

    For the last two years I have purchased wreaths to put wherever needed and a Patriot Pair, one to be put at my Husbands Grave in Tioga Cemetary and one I sent to a living veteran that is family or friend. My husband and I both have been very Patriotic most of our lives and donating for these wreaths gives me a feeling of saying Thank You to all those that have served. I’m waiting for the cemetery in Indiana where my brother who was killed in WW11 is buried to get sponsors for the wreaths so I can send one there. Thank You Wreaths Across America.

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