Generosity: A Practical Expression of Love

Operation Spread Hope, Love & Joy, Part IV

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Photo taken at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery in Killeen

Point to Ponder:
What do you do to help, honor and/or recognize mankind during the holidays?

iGnite Neissa

by Neissa Brown Springmann

Last Sunday, when the kids and I arrived in Austin for the holidays, my dad picked us up from the airport and we headed to Belton where he lives. Rather than stay on the interstate he drove off the beaten path through “the country” so that we could see the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery in Killeen that opened in 2005. My father is a veteran and has always cared deeply for our veterans, military, and fallen soldiers, but a recent story of generosity and love from the national news intrigued him to drive through the cemetery to see Christmas wreaths placed on every tombstone. The story goes like this:

In 1992, Merril Worchester of Worchester Wreath Company in Maine began a tradition of donating and placing 5,000 Christmas wreaths each year to decorate the graves of veterans laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery, and to show his gratitude for their sacrifice, and that of their families. In 1992, 25 volunteers joined him. Many years later he doubled the donation to provide 10,000 wreaths at Arlington. In 2007, 3,000 volunteers showed up at Arlington National Cemetery to help place the wreaths on a chilly Saturday morning. They came from around the country, some with tears in their eyes, to honor veterans most never knew. In a few hours in freezing temperatures, the volunteers placed more than 10,000 balsam fir wreaths with blazing red bows on graves at Arlington National Cemetery.

The annual tradition went on for many years until a photo of the project was released on the internet. Suddenly, Merrill received national attention and thousands of requests came in from people wanting to help at Arlington and wanting to emulate the project at their national and state cemeteries. What became of this beautiful display of generosity and love was the birth of a non-profit organization called Wreaths Across America, whose mission is to remember, honor and teach by coordinating wreath laying ceremonies on a specified Saturday in December at Arlington as well as veteran cemeteries and other locations in all 50 states and beyond.

As we made our way through the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery we were able to see see all 6000 plus tombs adorned with Christmas wreaths. The mood was solemn yet the sight was awe-inspiring and it served as the perfect teachable moment for Durant and Malaine.

Now that I am aware of Wreaths Across America, my family will contribute in the upcoming years and do our part to ensure that all veterans tombstones have a wreath during the Christmas season. For this year, we are carrying on a Christmas tradition inspired by Dave Haney, our former pastor at Riverbend Church in Austin. Each Christmas Eve, he and his family bake cookies and deliver them to the local fire station. Therefore, as an expression of love and gratitude, the kids and I baked and delivered freshly baked brownies to the fire house in Belton. As always, the firemen were extremely thankful and generous with their time.

To me, our military and public service professionals like policemen and firemen and even emergency room, hospitals and healthcare providers all provide extremely dangerous and sacrificial services. This allows us safety, order in our communities and help during the most inopportune times, all the while taking time away from their families on the most special holidays, like Thanksgiving and Christmas. While each of these individuals do choose their profession, it doesn’t diminish the sacrifice by both them and their families.

As we enter the week of Christmas, I encourage you to continue to participate in Operation Spread Hope, Love and JoyΒ by extending your generosity and gratitude by delivering Christmas goodies to your local police station, fire station, emergency room and hospital.There’s no doubt they will be grateful and touched by your love…and depending where you choose, you’re likely to get first-hand tour of the fire house, fire trucks and a few cute pictures.

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Action Item:
This week extend your generosity, love and/or gratitude to military or public service professionals.

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