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Wreaths Across America keeping veterans always in mind and heart

COLUMBIA FALLS, MAINE — This Saturday, volunteers will lay over 2 millions wreaths on veterans’ graves throughout the country. Behind every wreath, ...

COLUMBIA FALLS, MAINE -- This Saturday, volunteers will lay over 2 millions wreaths on veterans' graves throughout the country.

Behind every wreath, there's a tree; now, there are some special honoring veterans and their families from our area.

FOX43's Grace Griffaton traveled to Columbia Falls, Maine to find out what it's all about.

1000 words - a picture's worth. For these women, honor and sacrifice are two words close to heart.

"We tag these trees as a living remembrance, and this will be the family's tree now," said Chris Waltz of York County.

Waltz drove a long, long way from home in York County, 700 miles, to Wreaths Across America Headquarters in Columbia Falls, Maine.

"They have the stem to stone project, and what you do is you tag trees, with the name of a fallen service member," explained Waltz.

Waltz brought along some friends, volunteers with her organization For the Love of a Veteran.

"I just lost my father, January of this year, so it's still kind of fresh, and my father in law, although I never met him, I honor him still," said Jacqui Hall, a volunteer.

Hall dedicated two dog tags which employees engraved on site, one for her dad and one for the father she never got the chance to meet.

"He died in 1988, so when we forget, that there are veterans still 20 years ago, 30 years ago, 10 years ago, 5 years ago. I also have an uncle killed in Vietnam in 1969, so I just want to honor my family, and let them know, I'm still thinking about them every single day," she explained.

"She offered this trip. It's been almost a year in the making, and I have been super excited," said Kim Woltman.

Woltman says the trip means more than she can say.

"It brings sadness, but yet, it's such an honor, you know. My dad, gosh, I'll try to get through this," said Woltman.

Woltman faced a tough loss, grieving her father, Bernard Phelps, an Army E-4 Specialist, and her father-in-law, Roderick Woltman, Airforce Airman 1st Class.

"Unfortunately, they died 40 days apart, so that was tough, and I was still grieving, and my husband got hit with it. It was really tough," she said.

Woltman just wants to keep her family together.

"I didn't know that you picked your own tree, so I put them together because my husband and I are together, so I want our dads together," she explained.

It is Wreaths Across America's Remembrance Tree Program.

"By putting that marker and dog tag on there, that becomes your tree, and you're a part of remembering those veterans," said Wayne Hanson, a veteran and coordinator for Wreaths Across America. "They'll tip this, eventually, and tips from that will be made into the wreaths that go to a marker somewhere in a national cemetery, honoring a veteran and thanking them for their service and sacrifice."

At Wreaths Across America Headquarters in Maine, there are countless stories of that sacrifice.

"We represent those families that can't be there to honor their loved ones," said Nancy Willey, a tour guide at Wreaths Across America's museum. "I taught history for 43 years, but I have learned more from the veterans firsthand information, since I started working here, in the museum, and I really enjoy it."

Founded in 1992, Wreaths Across America has come a long way. That year, only a modest 5,000 wreaths were needed to cover veterans' graves during the holidays... but now?

"They got to make 2 million wreaths, because each year, there are more locations, more cemeteries and organizations calling in," stated Willey.

The organization's goal? Bringing color to all veterans' headstones during the holidays. The green of the wreaths represent longevity and endurance, the signature red bow represents sacrifice, and its shape is like an eternity's time,  crafted from a sea of Balsam Fir Trees and their tips.

"That tree will represent honor given to other veterans because they tip the trees for the wreaths so it's like they both own this tree, they're part of this tree," said Woltman.

From the stems in the forest to stones all across the country, Wreaths Across America is keeping members of our armed forces always in mind and heart.

The women were able to travel to Maine with the nonprofit organization, For the Love of a Veteran.

There is now a section of trees dedicated to For the Love of a Veteran so other volunteers can tag trees for their loved ones.

Volunteers will lay wreaths Saturday, December 15th at Fort Indiantown Gap National Cemetery.  For information, click here. 

Volunteers will lay wreaths at Mt. Eden Evangelical Lutheran Church (PAMEEQ) this Saturday as well. For more information, click here. 

Volunteers will lay wreaths at Mt. Olivet Cemetery (PAHMOC) in Hanover this Saturday. For more information, click here.