ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — A local and nationwide effort to honor fallen service members is struggling for support.
- Bay Pines Cemetery short 32,000 wreaths for 'Wreaths Across America'
- Volunteers place wreaths on the graves of service members
- Can donate to Wreaths Across America through December 3
The annual Wreaths Across America Day is just two weeks away, and at Bay Pines National Cemetery, they are more than 32,000 wreaths short.
More than 50 years after her brother served in the Vietnam War, Ronalee Klase is making sure Army Specialist 4 William Klase’s legacy lives on.
"He went into the military and said, ‘I'm not going to get stuck behind a desk. I came here to defend and fight for our country,’" Ronalee said.
"He was unfortunately exposed to Agent Orange (in Vietnam), and we lost him in 2004," she said.
Ronalee has made it her mission to honor him and the thousands of others buried at the cemetery as a coordinator for Wreaths Across America.
Each December, the organization recruits volunteers to place wreaths on the graves of service members. Unfortunately, she said each year they run into the same problem.
"I don't know if it's because the word doesn't get out, or if it's because people are so busy this time of year," Ronalee said.
Wreaths Across America runs on donations and sponsors, and the organization keeps coming up short. At Bay Pines National Cemetery, there are 34,000 sites and so far, Ronalee said they only have enough to cover a little over 1,600.
"(There’s) a shortage of over 32,000 wreaths we still need in order to honor these men and women, in order to show their families that we remember them … we want them to know we're thinking of them in order to teach the next generation," she said.
Ronalee is urging anyone to show support this holiday season so that families of the fallen know that their sacrifice hasn’t been forgotten.
You can donate to Wreaths Across America through December 3. The wreaths are live and brought in from Maine. You can donate online at Wreaths Across America’s website or by phone at 877-385-9504.
When donating, you must specify which cemetery you would like to place a sponsored wreath.