Concern over wreath-laying at veterans cemeteries

Concern over wreath-laying at veterans cemeteries leads to changes

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Knoxville raised money for fewer than 400 wreaths last year. Knoxville raised money for fewer than 400 wreaths last year.
"It's to remember those who served, honor those who've fallen and to teach our children what all that means," McKay said. "It's to remember those who served, honor those who've fallen and to teach our children what all that means," McKay said.
"I think everybody should be equal," Presnell said. "I think everybody should be equal," Presnell said.
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By JILL MCNEAL
6 News Anchor/Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - A national organization is trying to figure out how to keep honoring veterans in Tennessee, but in a way the state deems fair.

The Wreaths Across America program places fresh evergreen branches on military graves around the country each December, but they don't have enough money to cover every marker.

At the East Tennessee State Veterans Cemetery on Lyon's View Pike alone, there are more than 5,000 headstones, but Knoxville raised money for fewer than 400 wreaths last year.

"My goal all along has been to have all these markers with a wreath on them," said Deb McKay, the Knoxville coordinator for Wreaths Across America.

"It's to remember those who served, honor those who've fallen and to teach our children what all that means," McKay said.

In the past, the Knoxville wreaths have been placed on sections of gravestones visible from the road, rotating every year. But cemetery directors were getting complaints about which markers were chosen.

"They're just questions as to why not my husband, why not my son, why not my daughter? Well the reason why is the public has to donate that money," McKay said.

The state has asked Wreaths Across America to come up with a better way to choose which graves get wreaths, but McKay worries it won't have the same impact.

"It would look bad. It would look worse. You'd have wreaths scattered," McKay said.

Joyce Presnell, who lost her husband, a Vietnam vet, five months ago, appreciates the program, but said she would feel left out if his grave was one without a wreath.

"I would feel as if it wouldn't be fair. I think everybody should be equal," Presnell said.

But she admits she doesn't have an easy solution.

"They may be able to put the wreaths all around the entrance and not on any particular grave. I don't know. It is very difficult," she said.

Wreaths Across America and the Tennessee Department of Veterans Affairs said they working together to come up with a solution before this year's ceremony on December 15.

The deadline to sponsor a wreath is November 25.

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