Lakes area veterans and volunteers participate in Wreaths Across America in Detroit Lakes on Dec. 17
On a cold and blustery Saturday, about a dozen Detroit Lakes area residents placed wreaths on the flag poles at Veterans Memorial Park in Detroit Lakes as part of Wreaths Across America on Dec. 17.
DETROIT LAKES — The snow, high winds and bitter cold couldn't keep about a dozen lakes area veterans and volunteers from participating in Wreaths Across America in Detroit Lakes on Saturday.
The Dec. 17 event is part of a nationwide effort to adorn veteran gravesites and other memorials with holiday wreaths. The wreath laying begins at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington D.C. at noon and is coordinated at more than 3,400 other locations, across all 50 states, beginning at the same time in their respective time zones.
"We have a large veteran population in the area here," said Tom Mortenson, Wreaths Across America coordinator in Detroit Lakes. "And I think one of the things we forget over the years is there are families this holiday period that don't have a loved one at their table."
He added it takes 20 semitrucks to deliver the more than 226,000 wreaths to Arlington National Cemetery every year.
"Each wreath is handmade ... which is kind of remarkable when you think about it," said Mortenson. "It's a massive project ... so we're just a small portion, but we are the only place west of Fort Snelling that does it here in Minnesota."
The wreath-laying tradition dates back to 1992 when a Maine wreath company had a surplus of holiday wreaths and organized for them to be donated to Arlington National Cemetery and laid on one of the older sections of the grounds, according to the nonprofit's website . The tradition continued, but, in 2005, a viral photograph spread on social media platforms increased participation across the country and truly turned the event into a nationwide movement.
Detroit Lakes has participated in Wreaths Across America annually since 2015.
"I just want to say thank you to our veterans and service members, and their families, and especially those who have given their lives for our country," Mortenson said.
He added that our area veterans aren't getting any younger, so it is important Detroit Lakes and other communities keep up these remembrance events.
"This park was established by about a half-dozen young guys that have now, I think, some of them have passed on," said Mortenson.
Following the ceremony at Veterans Memorial Park, Mortenson and the other lakes area veterans and volunteers then traveled to the Grand Army of the Republic Park on Washington Avenue, the World War II Memorial at the Boys and Girls Club, Oak Grove Cemetery and Holy Rosary Cemetery and laid wreaths at those locations as well.