Templeton American Legion Post #220, Templeton 4-H, and El Paso de Robles Chapter, NSDAR volunteered their time Saturday morning

TEMPLETON — Last weekend, veterans in the Templeton Cemetery were honored with live wreaths placed on their graves for National Wreaths Across America Day. 

On the foggy and chill morning of Saturday, Dec. 17, the Templeton American Legion Post #220, Templeton 4-H, and the El Paso de Robles Chapter, National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (NSDAR) placed wreaths on 350 veteran graves in the cemetery.

“We had a wonderful turnout this year … it’s outstanding,” said Legion Post Commander Larry Mora of the volunteer turnout this year at the cemetery.

Wreaths Across America (WAA) coordinates wreath­-laying ceremonies at more than 2,500 locations across the United States, at sea, and abroad. 

WAA is committed to teaching younger generations about the value of their freedoms and the importance of honoring those who sacrificed so much to protect those freedoms. The organization offers learning tools, interactive media projects, and opportunities for youth groups to participate in the events. They also work to create opportunities to connect “the Greatest Generation” with the “Generation of Hope,” passing on inspirational stories from World War II veterans to the leaders of the future.

Seven years ago, Mora came across the Wreaths Across America program and decided to bring the tradition to Templeton. A Vietnam Army Veteran himself, Mora started the first year purchasing 50-100 wreaths for the local veterans. Now, they purchase over 300 wreaths to cover the cemetery.

The oldest veteran in the Templeton Cemetery is Martin Stradler, a sergeant from the Spanish American War. The war, which lasted less than a year, is described as an armed conflict between Spain and the United States after the sinking of the USS Maine in the Havana Harbor in Cuba. While there are no birth or death dates on his gravestone, he is listed as part of the 17th Infantry Regiment.

Mora joined the Lions Club when he returned from Vietnam but never attended a meeting. However, he joined for a second time 16 years ago and was named commander of the chapter shortly after. 

“We haven’t had an election since,” Mora laughs, commenting that they need some new members to join. 

The live wreaths are now purchased with funds raised from local businesses and sponsors. Mora thanked Mark Switzer especially, who he said is their biggest donor. “He is the most generous donor I have. Every year without fail.”

Each wreath was placed at marked and unmarked veteran graves at the Templeton Cemetery. Before placing the wreath, volunteers read allowed the veteran’s name, noted the war they served in, and regiment if it was available.

“It’s one way of saying thanks one more time to those who have paid the price,” explains Mora, “The veterans are not all combat deaths, just people who have served their country proudly and wouldn’t hesitate to do it again.”

Other than the Templeton Cemetery, Mora brings a wreath to two Templeton locals graves buried at the Paso Robles Cemetery and also one to his father’s grave in Atascadero who was a WWII veteran. Bring in the service runs in Mora’s family, as his twin brother served in the navy during the Vietnam war and his son, who recently retired after 20 years in the service. 

Talking about being a veteran, Mora says, “It’s just loving your country and wanting to serve it proudly with distinction.”

For more information on Wreaths Across America, visit wreathsacrossamerica.org