Worthington Cemetery project exceeds goal for veteran graves

Monday, July 8, 2024

On December 14, 2024 at 12 p.m., Wreaths Across America (WAA) will be at Worthington Cemetery to remember and honor our veterans through the laying of Remembrance wreaths on the graves of our country’s fallen heroes and the act of saying the name of each and every veteran aloud.

For the 470 veterans interred there, the honor is long overdue, and, in typical Worthington fashion, the community rose to the occasion, even raising extra funds to give them a head start on next year’s ceremony.

Each wreath costs $17, for a project total of $7,990.

Individuals and businesses can sponsor a wreath by visiting Worthington’s Wreaths Across America page at http://www.wreathsacrossamerica.org/inwort.

As of 2024 so far, 571 wreaths have been sponsored for Worthington veteran graves, 23.4% over the goal, or

exceeding it by 108 wreaths.

According to wreathsacrossamerica.org, on National Wreaths Across America Day 2023, which was observed on Saturday, December 16, the ceremony took place at over 4,225 locations across the country, with “volunteers remembering our nation’s heroes as they said their names aloud, honoring over three million veterans”.

The organization’s motto is “Remember the fallen, Honor those who serve and Teach the next generation the value of freedom”.

“When volunteers say the name of a veteran aloud while placing a wreath, it ensures they live on in our hearts and memories and are always remembered,” the website states.

Worthington Wreaths Across America Location Coordinator Russ Jackson, a Marine Corps veteran, and his wife, Christina, are major supporters of the project, as well as other veteran memorial efforts in Worthington, and Jackson says it all started 20 years ago for him with one soldier, SSG Matthew Kimmell, US Army.

“I am my brother’s keeper,” Jackson said. “Almost 20 years ago, I placed a flagpole at the graveside of SSG Matthew Kimmell US Army, who was killed in action in Iraq.”

Later, Jackson said, he did some research, looking for other local veterans killed in action, and he found several. With the help of and donations from of the community, Jackson was able to place flagpoles by the graves of other veterans at eternal rest in Worthington.

Another memorial project, the placing of memorial street signs in Worthington in honor of the town’s fallen heroes, was a success and, Jackson said, a memorial stone was installed at the Worthington Jefferson Township Public Library, “so all the names could be together”.

“The mother of SSG Kimmell told me about Wreaths Across America,” Jackson said. “With this, all of the veterans buried in Worthington could be honored. So, I contacted WAA and became the Worthington Location Coordinator. A veteran is never forgotten until their name is no longer spoken. At the wreath-laying ceremony, as many family members as possible will have the opportunity to place their veteran’s wreath and say their veteran’s name. It is open to the public and everyone is invited.”

Jackson has contacted both the Worthington American Legion and Worthington VFW and hopes both will stand with him and every guest to honor Worthington’s veterans that day.

“Driving by the cemetery at dusk, seeing all of the flags with their lights is a powerful sight,” Jackson said. “As is driving through town and seeing their street signs. These things say, ‘Brothers, you are not forgotten’. It is my hope that same sentiment will be made by a cemetery with 470 wreaths resting at the headstones of our veterans in December.”

Jackson comes from a family of proud veterans.

“One grandfather served in World War II and another in Korea,” Jackson said. “Both served in the US Army and held the rank of Corporal. I served in the Marine Corps and was deployed to Mogadishu, Somalia. I honored my grandfathers by achieving the same rank they had. As a veteran, I feel it is my duty to honor all the veterans who came before me and all of those after, for if we, as veterans, do not take care of our own, why should anyone else? I am my brother’s keeper. Semper Fi.”

One Worthington organization, a chapter of Tri Kappa, held a spaghetti dinner and silent auction for the project in April, raising an astonishing $4,572.30 and the Worthington Christian Church showed their support as well, raising $1,700 within their congregation.

“I am speechless,” Jackson said. “I never dreamed we’d reach this level of support. There were numerous individual sponsors as well as Tri Kappa and the Church. Every wreath over the goal will roll over for next year.”

For more information, visit the Wreaths Across America-Worthington Cemetery website at www.wreathsacrossamerica.org/inwort.

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