Wreaths Across America ceremony pays tribute to fallen service-members

Photo: Barrancas National Cemetery Source: WEAR Jamarlo Phillips

Hundreds of people showed up to pay their respects to veterans by laying wreaths at Barrancas National Cemetery at NAS Pensacola.

Organizers say since “Wreaths Across America” brought their campaign to Pensacola, they've never been able to raise enough donations to collect wreaths for all the veterans buried there.

Although they fell short this year they're not giving up hope to fill every headstone next year.

Wreaths Across America has come a long way at Barrancas National Cemetery.

"We started with seven wreaths and now we're with 14,000," said Wreaths Across America Spokesperson Buster Hartford.

Hartford said their ultimate goal is to decorate 41,000 headstones at the cemetery.

"We need a lot more back-up," Hartford said.

Volunteers were asked to take wreaths one by one to grave sites throughout the cemetery, place them and say the veteran's name aloud to honor his or her service.

Darlene Norman traveled eleven hours from North Carolina to spend much of the ceremony in front of her 21-year-old son Keifer Huhman's headstone.

"I feel thankful for the 21 years I did get and then I pray for these other souls out here because their families are missing them," Norman added.

Norman's son was a Senior Airman in the Air Force. She says he lived in Navarre with his dad but died in 2016 after falling off a bridge and into a canal in Denver, Colorado.

Norman said the last time anyone heard from her son was the afternoon of Super Bowl Sunday.

"We didn't find him for 49 days," Norman said.

Organizers said the ceremony is near-and-dear to many hearts because it honors service-members and keeps their memory alive.

"It reminds them that they didn't give their life [sic] for nothing. They gave it for our freedom and it gives us the freedom to do what we're doing today," explained Hartford.

Organizers say the wreaths laid at the ceremony exceeded the number of wreaths placed last year but fell 27,000 wreaths shy of filling the entire cemetery.

Wreaths Across America hopes to fill the cemetery in 2018 and has already begun collecting donations from individuals and businesses to achieve that goal.

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