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Americans lay wreaths on graves of soldiers

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Americans lay wreaths on graves of soldiers
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Throughout history husbands, sons, wives and daughters have fought for the freedom of our country, the United States of America. But during that fight, some made the ultimate sacrifice. Our Cara Thomas tells us how Americans across the country are taking time to remember fallen soldiers during the holidays.

ROME, N.Y. -- Donna Parker lost her son, Elijah Parker, six years ago while he was fighting in Iraq. While she thinks about her son every day, it’s the holiday season that’s the hardest.

"You have all your family together, but there's a hole there," she said. "There's a missing link because I can have all my children there, but that sometimes even makes it, makes me more aware, makes us more aware that there's one missing."

But every year on December 15th, soldiers like Elijah are remembered. It began 20 years ago when a tree farmer from Maine donated some wreaths to Arlington and laid them by the headstones of fallen soldiers.

"It turns out this year they sent down 200,000 wreaths and there's 20,000 people putting on those wreaths. And they're all donated," says Bob Haley, the organizer of Rome Cemetery's event.

Well, the tradition is catching on. This year, more than 800 cemeteries are participating across the country, including the Rome Cemetery, where they honored the soldiers from wars past: The Civil War, World Wars I and II, as well as the Korean War.

Maureen Dooley, Chief Master Sgt. for EADS US Air Force, said, "They're all apart of America, they're all a part of where we are today and what we're still fighting for and that's for the values that we hold so dear and the freedoms that we hold so dear."

With donations from 12 local businesses, including Price Chopper and Stewart’s, about 180 wreaths were purchased and volunteers from the community came and laid them in front of soldiers’ headstones.

"I think a Gold Star family’s fear is that their child is going to be forgotten, that their loved one is going to be forgotten who gave their lives for the cause of freedom and so we need to make sure that doesn't happen," said Parker.

Elijah‘s body has since been moved to Arlington. And while his family isn’t there this year, they say knowing a wreath will be placed on his grave gives them peace during the holidays.

Evergreen Cemetery in Lee also held a ceremony on Saturday. They honored about 70 soldiers, some of who died within the last few years. Families were given the opportunity to purchase a wreath and lay it on their loved one’s graves.

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