Veterans honored through Wreaths Across America

OTTAWA — An estimated 1.7 million wreaths were placed at 2,557 locations across the country Saturday.

“The 2020 theme for Wreaths Across America has been ‘Be an American worth fighting for,’ and this year I have been blessed to see my fair share,” said Karen Worcester, executive director of Wreaths Across America.

In Ottawa, at SS. Peter & Paul Cemetery, 400 of those wreaths were placed on the graves of veterans.

Nancy Rader honored her father, Gail Bennett, with one of those wreaths.

“I think this is wonderful. I think this is what we need right now at this time in our nation,” said Rader. “Anytime we can show honor and thankfulness to all the veterans no matter if they served in World War I, the Civil War, Vietnam, Korea up to today in Afghanistan. We really all need to remember where our safety in our nation has come from and it’s been through these veterans who have sacrificed their lives and served willingly.”

Deb Dunnigan was there to honor her brother David, who was killed in the Vietnam War in 1968, and her father, who was a World War II veteran.

“I think it’s wonderful. It’s kind of new to this area. And I know it’s a national event. It’s a good time to remember them. You miss them during this season more than others,” Dunnigan said.

Deb’s sister, Marcia Klima organized the local Wreaths Across America in Ottawa.

“It’s an opportunity to show their respect and love for the veterans in our families, in our community, in our world,” Klima said. “We have a lot of veterans in our family, a lot of people that we know who are veterans. We had a brother who died in Vietnam and want to honor anybody who’s (had) that experience.”

Through a Facebook plea, they were able to raise enough money for the 400 wreaths in only six weeks and they had more volunteers who wanted to help than they needed.

“I am so grateful. I’ve used the term ‘happy, grateful and not surprised’ (to denote) the tremendous giving spirit. I asked for help. They came out in droves. I’ve turned people away because you don’t need 20 people, you only need six,” Klima said.

Klima is hoping people remember those veterans who kept us free.

“It’s hard work to have what we have, and people have worked hard to help us keep our freedoms and help us be able to do the things that we like to do and want to do and with our careers, with our hobbies, with our work, anything that we do. And in some places, that’s not possible. But here it is. It’s important that we keep that up and thank those who helped us have it,” Klima said.

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Nancy Rader stands over the grave of her father, Gail Bennett, a veteran who fought in World War II. Rader stands over the grave of her father, Gail Bennett, a veteran who fought in World War II. Sam Shriver | The Lima News

By Sam Shriver

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Reach Sam Shriver at 567-242-0409.