Mary Lee Shelton, For the Sun-News
Published 4:10 p.m. MT Dec. 17, 2019 | Updated 4:20 p.m. MT Dec. 17, 2019
The Doña Ana Chapter of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution celebrated the holiday season last week by joining forces with other volunteers in placing more than 4,000 wreaths at the graves of as many veterans buried at the Fort Bayard National Cemetery near Silver City.
“It was moving and inspirational to participate in this international program recognizing our service men and women,” said Linda Bartlett, regent of the Doña Ana DAR. “I noticed a man who saluted a headstone after he placed a wreath upon the stone with reverence and dignity. It reminded me of watching the changing of the guard at Arlington National Cemetery. It was very special.”
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The annual event at Fort Bayard grew from the 1992 idea of a Maine wreath grower as a way to honor and remember servicemen and women buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Reports of the event hit the internet and the Wreaths Across America volunteer event snowballed to adorn and honor veterans’ graves across the United States, Puerto Rico and more than 20 countries overseas.
On Saturday, the Las Cruces DAR joined other members of the public and attended a formal ceremony recognizing each branch of the service.
Bartlett said the WAA mission of “Remember, Honor, Teach” fits perfectly with the DAR mission of “Historic Preservation. Education and Patriotism,” and inspired her to propose that the Doña Ana DAR chapter help sell wreaths for Fort Bayard National Cemetery.
The Doña Ana chapter sold 241 wreaths, totaling $3,615. They participated in the WAA program that donates one wreath for every two sold, so that the total number of wreaths the chapter donated to Fort Bayard was 361.
“I am overwhelmed by the generosity of the women in our chapter,” said DAR member Faith Morley who coordinated the wreath sales. She said the chapter plans to participate in the wreath sales and placement at Fort Bayard again next year beginning in the summer.
Silver City DAR member Mary Cowan is a Gold Star mother (mother of a child who died while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States) who made the WAA for Fort Bayard her passion. Her son is buried at Fort Bayard.
“It took eight years to get every headstone at Fort Bayard cemetery a wreath,” Cowan reported. In 2018 and 2019 they received enough funding for every veteran buried at Fort Bayard to be recognized with a wreath.
Since WAA began in Grant County in 2009 Cowan has been instrumental in organizing volunteers to make the effort a success. Interest and number of wreaths for the project have grown each year.
This year more wreaths were placed at Fort Bayard National Cemetery than at the Santa Fe National Cemetery and the Fort Bliss National Cemetery in El Paso combined, Cowan said.
For Friday’s wreath placement Cowan instructed volunteers to say the veteran’s name and thank him or her for their service as volunteers placed the wreaths against the headstone.
WAA leaders tell volunteers, “It is said a person dies twice, once when they take their final breath, then later, when their name is last spoken. When you place the wreath on the headstones, speak that person’s name so they are not forgotten.”
For information about WAA go to wreathsacrossamerica.org. To participate in the local DAR wreath sales, which will begin again summer of 2020, call Regent Linda Bartlett at 575-521-3166.
Daughters are vibrant, active women who are passionate about community service, preserving history, educating children, as well as honoring and supporting those who serve our nation. Those interested in joining the Doña Ana chapter should call registrar Sarah Clark at 210-632-2434.
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