Volunteer hikers to place wreaths on every veteran’s tombstone within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Local News


GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WATE) — Veterans buried within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park boundary will be honored Sunday by volunteers placing wreaths upon their gravestones. It is the first time being done for the first time in the Park.

A ceremony will take place at the Sugarlands Visitors Center flag pole at 8:30 a.m. on Sunday, Dec. 20.

At the end of the ceremony, wreaths will be distributed to about 50 volunteer hikers, who will carry the wreaths to more than 200 burial places at 60 cemeteries in Tennessee and North Carolina, according to a spokesperson for Veterans Heritage Site Foundation.

Some of the hikes are over five miles and some are a very short distance. But VHSF says it is ensuring that these veterans will have a wreath for Christmas. Some will even be using a boat to get to graves in the Fontana Lake area.

Wreaths will be placed on graves of veterans from the Revolutionary War to Vietnam; this includes Ella Costner, a WWII nurse who was also a POW.

A coalition of people, primarily Don Casada and Sheila Evans with the Park Service, have worked for years to compile the list of veterans and where their graves are located. That list is still a work in progress, foundation said.

Veterans Heritage Site Foundation working with the Wreaths Across America program will be providing the wreaths. The wreaths will also provide opportunity to teach the younger generation the heritage of our veterans who fought for our country, according to VHSF leaders.

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