KILLEEN, Texas -- To give thanks to those who have served, volunteers gathered at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery for a wreath laying ceremony.
It's a more than 10 year tradition which started when an organization donated wreaths in 2006 for the Central Texas Veterans Cemetery in Killeen.
"They brought six wreaths and we looked out and their were lots of headstones and we didn't know how many but we knew there were a lot, said Jean Shine, founder of the Friends of Central Texas Veterans Cemetery organization.
Thats when Jean Shine decided to get some volunteers together to honor all of the veterans buried in the cemetery. She found some wreaths in Austin and bows at a nearby Walmart, not quite knowing how much the event would grow over the years.
"We didn't know what we were doing, but the next year there was 900 people out here and that's when we knew we needed to get a foundation if we are going to support this cemetery until it gets to 50,000 or more," said Shine.
Thousands attended the 11th year of the wreath laying, a record since the tradition began. It's a moment for families to spend time with loved ones and for strangers to pay their respects to those who fought for our freedom.
"My brother-in-law, that just passed and my best friend that passed five years ago. It's a great opportunity to come out and give them the respect that they deserve," said Larry Mulcahy.
The organization behind the event anticipates there will be about 800 more graves each year. They hope to spread the word so more and more people get involved.
"It's a way to bring the love of our country, the love of our soldiers. The appreciation of their families," said Shine.
The wreaths will stay at the grave site until January, until then, visitors can stop by, take a look, and remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.For more information on how you can support the annual wreath project, visit WreathsForVets.org.