Thousands helped lay wreaths at the Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery on Saturday – the first time every headstone was decorated with a wreath for the holiday season.
Chris and Mary Bush are coordinators of Wreaths Across America at DFW National Cemetery. About 43,500 wreaths were collected through donations, meaning every veteran who is laid to rest at the cemetery has a wreath on his or her headstone this year, Mary Bush said.
“When my husband and I got the call about two weeks ago from Wreaths Across America’s main office that we had reached the goal and we were receiving full coverage, I broke down and cried,” Bush said. “It has always been my dream since we started this that everybody would be remembered.”
Bush’s son, Cpl. Peter John Courcy of Frisco, is buried at DFW National Cemetery. He was killed in 2009 in Afghanistan, which is when Bush and her husband got involved with the organization. That year, 250 wreaths were collected and less than 50 people attended the ceremony.
On Saturday, thousands attended the ceremony and helped lay wreaths. For some, the day was both heartwarming and heart-wrenching.
Valerie Zamarripa, mother of Patrick Zamarripa, laid a wreath on his headstone Saturday. Zamparripa, who served in the U.S. Navy, was one of five Dallas police officers killed in an attack in July 2016.
He was 32 years old at the time.
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“My son gave up his life. He loved his country. He loved his family, and he would be proud we're helping get this done,” Zamarripa said. “He's never forgotten, and I'm proud of him for everything he's done.”
Beth Sunquist, a member of the veteran support group Team RWB, attended the ceremony with several of her group members. Sunquist’s father, a U.S. Air Force veteran, died last year.
“Holidays are hard when you don't have your loved one, but out here, when we're laying wreaths for others, most people say a little prayer and thank them,” she said.
As the saying goes, those who have passed are gone but not forgotten.
Bush said this was the first year she knew for a fact, nobody laid to rest at the DFW National Cemetery was forgotten.
Coordinators said they expect about 4,500 more people to be buried at the cemetery in 2020, so more wreaths will be needed. Donations are accepted year round.
They’re also asking volunteers to return on Jan. 18 to help pick up the wreaths laid on Saturday.