Every year in Central Oregon, volunteers fan out across the area to lay Christmas wreaths on the gravesites of military service men and women.
About 1,600 donated wreaths were placed on veterans graves on Dec. 19 at:
- Redmond, which received 1,000 wreaths, managed by American Legion Post 44 and VFW Post 4108.
- Terrebonne, which received 198 wreaths, sponsored by Redmond VFW Post 4108.
- Tumalo, which received 44, sponsored by Redmond VFW Post 4108.
- Sisters, which received 35, managed by the American Legion and VFW Posts.
- Bend (Deschutes Memorial Gardens) 300, managed by Daughters of the American Revolution/High Desert Squadron Civil Air Patrol.
Local Boy Scouts troops, JROTC cadets help with the placement of the wreaths.
Deschutes Memorial Gardens closed the ceremony to the public because of COVID-19 restrictions. Masks and distancing were required elsewhere in public ceremonies with few participating.
Seven ceremonial wreaths were placed at the above locations plus at Madras City Hall (by American Legion Post 125), Bend Heroes Memorial (by Bend Heroes Foundation) and La Pine Senior Center (by American Legion Post 45).
American Legion Post 4 and its Auxiliary and Boy Scout Troop 25 usually place 200 sponsored wreaths and seven ceremonial wreaths at Greenwood cemetery in Bend. That was canceled this year due to COVID-19.
Wreaths are sold to sponsors by veterans and youth groups using various means: door to door sales, posters at businesses, repeat customers, word of mouth.
About 5,000 veterans were laid to rest in Central Oregon with 2,700 (54% of all) buried in three cemeteries in Bend. That means $25,000 could be raised annually if all 5,000 graves were decorated.
In total, 500 wreaths are usually placed at the three cemeteries, leaving opportunities for 2,000 more wreaths ($10,000 to be divided between veterans, civic organizations and youth).
Redmond’s American Legion and VFW Posts have grown their wreath programs to 100% coverage at Redmond, Terrebonne and Tumalo. They will add Powell Butte and Gray Butte cemeteries next year honoring another 100 veterans with wreaths.
Wreaths Across America was initiated by the late Bob Maxwell/World War II Medal of Honor recipient and Dick Tobiason, a Vietnam War veteran, in 2008 a year after it became a national program.
Original partners were the Daniel Family (owners of Deschutes Memorial Gardens) and CAP. The group formed the nonprofit Bend Heroes Foundation in 2010 which continues the program at until it was handed off to DAR and CAP. Bend Heroes Foundation held a workshop in 2016 to add more cemeteries which are named above. As Prineville is the only city not now participating in the program, Tobiason said he will try again to recruit American Legion, VFW and Band of Brothers there to manage a new program. Pilot Butte Cemetery in Bend does not have a program 750 veterans buried there.