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Volunteers honor veterans during Wreaths Across America event at South Florida National Cemetery

Only 12,000 out of 31,000 graves had wreaths this year
Posted at 6:25 PM, Dec 17, 2022

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — Palm Beach County was one of more than 3,000 sites in the U.S. and abroad that took part Saturday in the annual Wreaths Across America event.

The South Florida National Cemetery had the sounds of the bagpipes and the sights of the Stars and Stripes.

Each December, volunteers work to put wreaths on as many headstones as possible. It's a way to remember, honor and teach others about a veteran's service and the value of freedom.

"There is a saying that a soldier dies twice, once on the battlefield and again when he's forgotten," Jeff Gerten, location coordinator for the Wreaths Across America at the South Florida National Cemetery. "We are here to carry on where the family has passed, so that way we're still honoring that veteran. We're still remembering that veteran."

Jeff Gerten, local coordinator for the Wreaths Across America at the South Florida National Cemetery
Jeff Gerten speaks about why the Wreaths Across America event is important to all veterans and their families.

With every step, Vietnam War veteran James "Rabbi" King took a moment to remember our fallen veterans.

However, some graves remained bare this year.

"It's a shame that we can't honor them in a proper way," King said.

There are just under 31,000 graves at the South Florida National Cemetery, but only a little more than 12,000 wreaths were donated this year.

"Part of it is COVID, part of it is the economy," Gerten said. "We also had two hurricanes come through Florida."

James "Rabbi" King was among the volunteers at the South Florida National Cemetery to honor his fellow veterans.
James "Rabbi" King was among the volunteers at the South Florida National Cemetery to honor his fellow veterans.

The wreath shortage was felt throughout.

"It's sad. I hope when I'm in one of these graves, I'm looking up to see a wreath on my grave," King said.

But through it all, for those covered in Fraser fir wreath or those without, freedom still rang.

"Hopefully next year we can give them what they deserve," King said.