Over a thousand wreaths were laid on the gravestones of fallen veterans over the weekend in cemeteries throughout Grant County by members of the Columbia Basin Composite Squadron, Civil Air Patrol Ephrata, with support from the National Guard and members of the public. It was the fifth year in a row that CAP Ephrata participated in the solemn event.
Uniformed service members, families and area residents took time Saturday and Sunday to commemorate the fallen and deceased. Each event began with moment of silence and a formal ceremony honoring men and women in all branches of the military, ending with three volleys from an honor guard made up of members of the Ephrata and Moses Lake Legion Posts.
A wreath tied with a bright-red bow was placed on every grave, and at times overgrown grass and loose dirt was tidied away to better display the name of the person it interns.
This year’s Wreaths Across America event was the group’s most successful to date. With 1,188 wreaths in total, the Ephrata chapter of the Civil Air Patrol funded around half of all wreaths laid by CAP in the state of Washington.
First Lt. Karen Hildebrand, commander of the Columbia Basin Composite Squadron, said that the majority of the almost $16,000 raised this year came from the stalwart efforts of six cadets ages 13 to 16 who spent every weekend in November, including Thanksgiving weekend, soliciting donations outside local businesses for eight to nine hours a day. Hildebrand said the cadets were enthusiastic about honoring deceased veterans and educating the public, and that they developed greater pride in themselves and the military through their efforts.
Despite the stalwart efforts of her cadets, Hildebrand said the group’s success was only possible due to a community that donated and engaged with Wreaths Across America. Hildebrand thanked the Ephrata Walmart and Safeway, the Moses Lake Sportsman’s Warehouse and the Quincy Akins Fresh Market for allowing the cadets to solicit donations outside their businesses. Hildebrand also wished to thanks the Quincy Moose Lodge for their donation, Moses lake Lad Irrigation, Lowe’s, and Ziggy’s for their donations of marker flags, Daughters of the American Revolution, Othello, Wash. and Columbia Basin Chiropractic Care Ephrata for their monetary donations, and finally A&H Printers Moses Lake for donating a banner.
The grave of every known veteran at the Ephrata Cemetery and Valley View cemeteries in Quincy and Soap Lake was topped with a wreath, but such was the success of donations for the event that Hildebrand had to find other cemeteries throughout the county and beyond in order to use every last wreath to honor a veteran. Almost 80 additional wreaths were laid at cemeteries in Wilson Creek, Stratford, Moses Lake and Post Falls, Idaho.
Members of the community and the Ephrata Police Department joined men and women currently in the armed forces for the first time in laying wreaths, said Hildebrand, a level of engagement that the group has not seen in previous years, and which Hildebrand said she hopes to see again as the ceremony continues in years to come.