Tampa Bay area volunteers to place wreaths at Tampa Bay area national cemeteries

A sea of wreaths will cloak local national cemeteries in honor of the veterans buried there. Volunteers will begin placing thousands of wreaths on the gravestone of each veteran who served our country. 

For Candy White, knowing what to say at her son's gravestone is much more difficult than knowing what to do. On Saturday morning, she will be one of 300 volunteers at Bay Pines who will lay 6,000 wreaths at veterans' graves. 

White may pay more attention to two stones in particular. Her parents, Gloria and Joe Griffith, who helped liberate Buchenwald, and her son and daughter-in-law, Richard and Norma Kelly, are buried.

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Richard got sick at Camp Lejeune. "It seems like yesterday. But then again, sometimes it seems like forever," White said.

"So many people don't realize what this is and what these people have given up for them, so they can have that wonderful life and drive around in their fancy cars and go out to eat," White said.

Wreaths will be placed at 3,400 national cemeteries, military-themed public places and at VFW's across the country. In some ways, they are band-aids for wounds that can't be healed.

"I miss [Rick]," she said. "I wish things had been different."

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The wreaths are a simple but powerful message. White said it shows that somebody cares about the service they gave. 

The laying of wreaths will happen at Bay Pines Cemetery, Veterans Memorial Park & Rear Admiral LeRoy Collins, Jr. Veterans Museum in Hillsborough County and the American Legion, "U.S.S. Tampa" Post 5. 

The laying of Wreaths at Bay Pines Cemetery will start at 11 a.m. at 10000 Bay Pines Boulevard in Bay Pines. Volunteers are encouraged to arrive before the safety brief at 10:30 a.m., and one the wreaths are placed there will be a brief ceremony, which will start no later than 12 p.m. at the roundabout of the cemetery. 

The ceremony will include a live performance of the National Anthem, a presentation of colors, a ceremonial wreath laying on the obelisk and more. Wreath pick-up will take place at the Bay Pines National Cemetery on Jan. 21, 2023 at 10 a.m.

In Hillsborough County, the county's consumer and veterans services, the veterans council of Hillsborough County and Military Women of Tampa Bay/Unit 55 are joining forces to hold its 58th annual Veterans Day Tribute along with the Wreaths Across America. The event is at 10 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 17, at Veterans Memorial Park & Rear Admiral LeRoy Collins, Jr. Veterans Museum, located at 3602 US 301 in Tampa. 

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The American Legion "U.S.S. Tampa" Post 5 invites the community to its holiday memorial event, Wreaths Across America.  This is a family-friendly event to show support for military’s sacrifices. 

The ceremony begins at 12 p.m. (arrive early for parking and seating) at the American Legion, "U.S.S. Tampa" Post 5 located at 3810 W. Kennedy Boulevard in Tampa.

Wreaths can be sponsored for $15.