DALLAS — Last December, the Dallas chapter of the Old Guard Riders and numerous volunteers partnered with Wreaths Across America to place Christmas wreaths on the graves of veterans in Dallas Cemetery.
This year, the effort has expanded to Restlawn Cemetery off Highway 22 just outside of Salem. Wreaths will be placed on Dec. 14 at 8 a.m. at Dallas Cemetery, and 10 a.m. at Restlawn. Volunteers are needed for both events.
Wreaths Across America is a nonprofit that organizes ceremonies to honor veterans during the Christmas season. The movement started in 2007, and has grown to include 1,000 cemetery locations and 700,000 memorial wreaths.
Neil Martinez, the president and founder of Dallas Old Guard Riders, said the program has enough support to place 600 wreaths in each cemetery, and still has time to raise money to place more. Martinez credits the success of last year’s event to the increasing support.
“I think we are doing pretty good for our second year. Last year was our first year, so people were probably a little leery … and now they’ve seen it,” Martinez. “The more the public gives, the more wreaths we can place on veterans’ graves.”
Donations will be accepted until Dec. 2. Contact Martinez at 541-415-6891 to offer a donation. Those wanting to help place wreaths can simply show up at either cemetery on the day of the events.
Martinez said a ceremony will take place at Restlawn at 10 a.m. on Dec. 14, followed by wreath placement.
The Old Guard Riders have more plans in the works. The group would like to host a veterans’ appreciation barbecue in Dallas City Park next year, and will put together Easter baskets for children in foster care in Polk, Marion and Yamhill counties. In 2018, the organization made 965 baskets.
Martinez said he would like to expand the Wreaths Across America program in Polk County.
“Our main goal here at the Old Guard Riders is by next year, that we have so many wreaths for every single veteran’s grave in all the cemeteries around here,” Martinez said. “It’s a big thing to ask, but I want to see that in the future. It takes a lot of giving and a lot of time.”
You can help
What: Wreaths Across America
Where: Dallas Cemetery, 2065 SW Fairview Ave., Dallas and Restlawn 201 Oak Grove Road, NW, Salem.
When: 8 a.m. at Dallas Cemetery. A ceremony is scheduled for 10 a.m. at Restlawn.
For more information: Neil Martinez, 541-415-6891.