Locals lay wreaths at the Washington State Veterans Cemetery ahead of the holidays

The holidays are a time to celebrate family and for some, that includes celebrating loved ones who fought for our country and are no longer here.

Saturday is National Wreaths Across America Day, where people will lay wreaths at more than 1,600 veterans cemeteries nationwide.

One of those wreath ceremonies took place at the Washington State Veterans Cemetery in Medical Lake.

Gravestones of mothers, daughters, sons and fathers lay at the cemetery. They’re all friends and family members of someone, who were all honored and remembered Saturday.

Carolyn Clark lost her husband Nickey last year. He was a retired airman, who died of cancer.

“I think of how much Nick would’ve wanted to be a part of this. To be out here doing this himself for others, to put the wreaths for other people,” Clark said.

She said seeing so many people out at the cemetery Saturday, paying their respects, showed her that this kind of grief is shared.

“It’s not just me. It’s all of these people and it reminds me I’m not the only widow out here,” she said.

For some attending, it’s still a fresh wound. Gathered in a circle around his father’s grave, Joseph Gabel and his mother were comforted by Clark.

“We are here to, in memory of my father that passed away a couple weeks ago. Today’s actually his birthday,” Gabel said.

He said it felt special to be out there, to see so many people laying wreaths for their loved ones and others they might not know.

“I think it’s the least we can do. A lot of these guys and gals don’t have family… This time of year, it kind of humbles you,” said Phil Rotella, a volunteer laying wreaths.

Like many others laid to rest, including Gabel’s father, he’s following in their footsteps by going into the Army.

“I’ve wanted to go into the Army ever since I was a kid. Hearing all the stories he would tell me about the battles and his experiences in basic training, it sounds like a lot of fun,” Gabel said.

Big crowd here today at the Washington State Veterans Cemetery for Wreaths Across America. More than 2,000 wreaths will be placed here today. #4NewsNow pic.twitter.com/keFMPLtSLp

— Elenee Dao KXLY (@Elenee_Dao) December 14, 2019

“In many homes, there is an empty seat for one who is serving or one who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country,” it says on the Wreaths Across America website. “There is no better time to express our appreciation than during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.”

While the event is about remembering, it’s also about teaching kids about respect and honor for servicemen and women.

The event is coordinated by the national non-profit, which gets its fundraising for wreaths through school, scout, civic and religious groups across the country, according to its website.