HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- While driving by cemeteries throughout Madison County, you might notice wreaths placed on certain graves. Those wreaths aren't to celebrate Christmas early, they're to celebrate those who sacrifice their lives for our freedom.
"Wreaths for Veterans" is a non-profit organization solely ran by volunteers. It’s a chapter of Wreaths Across America, a charity organization to honor those who served the country.
The program started with Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C., but Huntsville was the first city in Alabama and the Southeast to place them on veterans’ graves. One veteran buried at Arlington is the late husband of "Wreaths for Veterans" president and co-founder, Joy Parker.
"I knew every year he got a wreath," says Parker. "But I thought about people here that didn't get a wreath and then, the co-founder sent me a picture of Arlington with the wreaths in the snow, which was so beautiful, and she said I wish somebody would do this in Huntsville, Alabama."
On November 20, 2006, exactly 13 years ago, they started "Wreaths for Veterans." Years ago, they put up 500 wreaths around Madison County. Now, Paker says theres around 12,000 wreaths placed in the area every year.
"They are wreaths to remember and thank our veterans," says Parker. "These are the people that signed on the line. If necessary, they would give up their lives for our freedom, the freedom we enjoy today. Not just in Huntsville, Alabama... all over the nation and most parts of the world. It's the American veteran that gives us the freedom."
Parker says after Huntsville started placing wreaths, other cities followed suit. Now, there are 90,000 wreaths placed on veterans' graves statewide.