On Saturday at noon, December 16, more than two million wreaths will be placed on the headstones of fallen veterans throughout the country. One of those ceremonies will be held at Maple Hill Cemetery.
And thanks to the efforts of Manton's Thelma Paul, a ceremony will also be held at the Greenwood Township Cemetery, where 116 fresh evergreen wreaths will honor the lives of fallen World War I and II veterans. One wreath will also be dedicated to Civil War veterans.
Thelma, 82, began organizing for this event last year with the help of her husband Doug. Their goal was to raise funds to purchase all 116 wreaths. The couple started last January by collecting cans along highways, yielding more than $300. They also sold produce from their garden. Because of their efforts, the wreaths were donated to the families.
On Saturday, Thelma will preside over a short ceremony that summarizes the mission of Wreaths Across America; to remember the fallen, to honor those who served, and to teach the next generation the value of freedom. A flag raising ceremony will include 'Taps' and the National Anthem. Thelma recruited the bugler and the vocalists from Manton High School.
"Then I will explain how to place the wreaths while saying the name of the veteran 'to ensure that the legacy of duty, service, and sacrifice of each veteran is never forgotten,'" she said.
Thelma's volunteerism honors veterans and seniors
At 82, Thelma is an active retiree whose volunteerism is dedicated to honoring military veterans and senior citizens.
"I'm proud of my age," she said. "And proud of what I can still do and hope I can do until I'm 92."
She gives her time to the Traverse City VFW Honor Guard, Hospice of Michigan and the Honor Thy Veterans program, Buglers Across America, and the Sons of the Union and Confederate Civil War veterans.
As a bugler, she has crisscrossed the state to play 'Taps' at military funerals.
"Having a live bugler, I feel a veteran needs that respect," she said. "My dad was a veteran. I remember when he had his military funeral, how it was a closure when you heard them play 'Taps'. So I started playing my trumpet and realized I could do some good with it."
"We've been all over Michigan with Buglers Across America," Doug said. "They don't want you to travel more than 100 miles that hasn't limited her at all. And she bugles for the Sons of the Union at Civil War ceremonies."
She has played for hundreds of veteran funerals and events. And through her volunteerism she has listened to many veterans' stories. She is determined to continue honoring them through her volunteer work.
Saturday's wreath laying event takes place at noon on December 16. The cemetery is located at 6761 N. 35 Road in Manton.