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Wreaths Across America volunteers honor veterans at Fairfax cemetery

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The church bell tolled as each veteran’s name was read. Then, the sound of Taps wafted from the bugler through the graveyard to those gathered in front of historic St. Mary of Sorrows Church in Fairfax. After the color guard processed out, more than 100 volunteers placed evergreen wreaths with red ribbons on the graves of the 69 veterans interred in the cemetery. 

Around the country, people decorated the graves of veterans Dec. 18 as part of the Wreaths Across America program. Not far away at Alexandria National Cemetery, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and American Heritage Girls laid more than 3,000 wreaths, covering approximately 70 percent of the graves. This was the first year St. Mary of Sorrows participated in Wreaths Across America at the parish cemetery. 

The Knights of Columbus Father Thomas A. Casey Council 3596 organized the event, which was headed up by Chris Brensy. The Knights spent three months researching and asking parishioners to help them identify all the veterans buried in the cemetery. They found 69, including one Civil War soldier, said Knight Donald Mailki. Wreaths on about 20 of the 69 veterans’ graves were placed by  family members. 

Mailki said the wreath-laying initiative was important to the council because many Knights served in the armed forces. “I was in the military and it’s nice to know someone appreciates what you did,” he said. “This is our way of appreciating the people who went before us.” 

Parishioner Lucy Schleibaum came to place a wreath on her husband’s  grave. “He was in the Army for three years serving during the Vietnam War and so this was a very special way to honor him,” she said. “I wouldn’t miss it for the world.” 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2021

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