It’s kind of like aspiring to perfection. You know you’re never going to get there, but that mindset really helps you get a lot of things done.
Bonnie Loy’s idea of perfection involves Christmas wreaths, veterans, and volunteerism.
Recently, the 69-year-old resident of Myerstown’s pursuit of perfection produced a wreath for every one of the 1,078 veterans laid to rest at Covenant Greenwood Ebenezer Cemetery in North Lebanon Township, through the national Wreaths Across America initiative.
But if you know anything about Loy, you know it’s not enough. Loy’s goal isn’t to have a wreath laid on every grave of every veteran interred at every cemetery in Lebanon County, it’s to see a wreath laid on every grave of every veteran laid to rest in the United States.
“I would love to see this happen across the county,” said Loy. “At the very least, I’d like to see two people (volunteers) working at each cemetery in Lebanon County. It would be hard to do. I would be fine with volunteers joining us for the memorial service at Ebenezer, and then going to their own cemeteries to lay the wreaths. Anyone can do this. Anyone.
“If I got what I wanted in the future, I’d love to see it spread,” added Loy. “I’d like to see more people take the lead. We’re planting a seed here. But for it to grow, it’s going to take a lot more people.”
A group of similar-minded volunteers and family members adorned the veterans’ graves at Covenant Greenwood cemetery with wreaths, following a moving, inspirational and patriotic 35-minute ceremony on Dec. 19 in Ebenezer. Originally, Loy had received 756 wreaths through donations to the Wreaths Across America program, but a last-minute windfall provided her with enough wreaths for every veteran’s grave at Ebenezer.
It was estimated that a total of 43,500 veterans’ graves in Lebanon County received wreaths – mostly at Indiantown Gap National Cemetery in Annville, and some at Mount Lebanon Cemetery from a surplus left over from Ebenezer – through Wreaths Across America. Across the country, some 2,557 locations participated in the program and about 1.8 million veterans’ graves were covered with wreaths.
“We got a phone call on Friday (Dec. 18),” said Loy. “Beth Sattazahn, who’s in charge (of Wreaths Across America ) out at The Gap, let me know there was a truck on the way from New Jersey. There were 35 boxes of wreaths on the truck. She said, ‘I already have what I need. Could you take the boxes?’ The trucker met us at Love’s Truck Stop (in Lickdale), and we transported the wreaths with three pick-up trucks.”
In its second year, the inspirational ceremony conducted prior to the wreath laying at Covenant Greenwood Cemetery was attended by about 100 people. The event featured ceremonial wreath presentations honoring each of the five branches of the United States military, along with POWs and MIAs, a pledge to the flag and singing of the National Anthem, a bugle blowing of ‘Taps’, an appearance by a rider-less horse and remarks from Lebanon County commissioner Bill Ames.
“I thought it went pretty well. It was awesome,” said Loy of the ceremony. “I’m just thankful for all the volunteers who placed wreaths. We were blessed with help and the number of people who were there. It was a personal service, a more hometown service. I felt like God was watching over us.
“I always like when the girls sing the national anthem,” Loy added. “I like to see the veterans place wreaths on the stands representing each branch of the military. Those two parts really stand out in my mind. I also liked looking over the snow and seeing the flags flying on the graves.”
The wreaths laid on the veterans’ graves at Covenant Greenwood Cemetery will remain there until March 20, 2021, when they will be picked up and disposed of by volunteers.
“Some of the veterans who are laid to rest there paid the ultimate price for freedom, but all paid some price,” said Loy. “We should never forget their sacrifices. It’s important to do this, especially in this day and age, so our children and future remember.
“Personally, I didn’t place as many wreaths as I did in other years, because we had so much help,” Loy continued. “That was wonderful. But we were out there until the last wreath was laid. I kept thinking about the people who came out. What an awesome community. People really stepped up, and people came together.”
As a volunteer, Loy is involved with a number of charitable causes. But her work with Wreaths Across America in Lebanon County has sort of taken on a life of its own.
“I think it’s grown into the largest one I’m involved in,” said Loy. “I’m active in my church. I volunteer at the Lebanon VA, where I worked. I’m involved with the Daughters of the American Revolution. I give to food banks. But do you know what I like about this one? I like the feeling of being a liaison between groups like the Ebenezer Fire Company, the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Ebenezer Beautification Committee, auxiliaries and the boy scouts.
“I guess I feel like this project is bringing the community together,” continued Loy. “It’s not in a textbook. It’s a life lesson. But if I can do this, you can do this. What I’m asking is, ‘Could you be the leader at your local cemetery?’ Do what you can do for your local community.”
Individuals can get involved with the local Wreaths Across America project by contacting Loy at 717-269-9260 or financially by visiting www.WreathsAcrossAmerica.org and entering ‘PA0449’ for Ebenezer Beautification Committee.
“I’m very happy The Gap does it,” said Loy. “I’m very happy they have as much help as they do. But the way I’m thinking, I truly expect to roll out more wreaths in the county. I don’t know who the leaders are going to be. I just know I can’t personally go out to each cemetery in the county.”
A most noble kind of networking.
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