On Dec. 14, the Beverly National Cemetery will host the annual Wreaths Across America event. For one Moorestown woman, the event matters now more than ever.
Diane Donnelly looks at the American flag and thinks of one thing, over and over.
“The people that gave their lives for our country,” said the Moorestown resident.
But in 2019, Donnelly worries too many Americans don’t feel the same way. “They see the flag and think of negative stuff,” she said.
Now more than ever, she said, it’s important to honor veterans and remind people of the sacrifices they make for our country.
On Dec. 14 at the Beverly National Cemetery, Donnelly and many other volunteers will devote their day to honoring that service and the lives lost.
The Moorestown native, who serves as the regent for the Moorestown chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, will join state Sen. Troy Singleton, 20 of his volunteers and at least six other local service organizations at the Wreaths Across America event starting at 11:45 a.m. and ending at 1:30 p.m.
The event will begin with a ceremony featuring a speech from Singleton and the presentation of one ceremonial wreath for all six branches of the U.S. military. After the ceremony, Donnelly, Singleton and the other volunteers will go around the cemetery laying wreaths at the grave sites of fallen soldiers.
The local organizations and event sponsors, like Holman Automotive and Bristol-Myers Squibb, try to encourage people to buy wreaths for $15 each. Patrick Rutherford, the location coordinator for Wreaths Across America at Beverly, said about 2,500 wreaths have been sold this year.
Singleton is responsible for about 750 of those as his office is participating in the event for the second year in a row.
“We wanted to do something for those who gave their lives and were buried at Beverly,” Singleton said. “We should never forget the sacrifice many men and women have made on behalf of our country.”
She joined the Daughters of the American Revolution, a national nonprofit organization with more than 185,000 members and thousands of local chapters, for two reasons.
One, she agrees with its mission of “promoting patriotism and preserving American history,” according to its website. And two, her American roots are deep.
Donnelly’s family got to America in 1625. She has 22 ancestors who fought in the Revolutionary War. (Having at least one is a requirement for joining the DAR.)
Donnelly has been attending the Wreaths Across America event with the DAR for four years now, and she and the organization do veteran outreach and appreciation events all year round. The chapter logged 5,000 service hours in 2018 alone.
But for Donnelly and the Moorestown DAR, Wreaths Across America is one of the signature events on their calendar. The organization will have between 15 and 20 members at this year’s ceremony.
“You lay down the wreath, take a moment of silence and it’s an immense feeling of pride in our country,” she said. “We need to remember our veterans and let their families know they aren’t forgotten.”