Photo by Charity Maness/Fall River County Herald-Star
Hanna Sletto, 14, a Sagebrush Wrangler 4-H member gently places a wreath at a fallen soldiers grave at the annual “Thank A Soldier, Lay a Wreath” event at the VA National Cemetery in Hot Springs.
By Charity Maness
HOT SPRINGS – Sagebrush Wrangler 4-H youth, community members and American Legion volunteers laid more than 70 wreaths within the VA National Cemetery in Hot Springs on Saturday, December 12 through the “Thank a Soldier, Lay a Wreath” program.
The yearly event has been hosted by the local 4-H group for the past four years with one time 4-H county club leader Nina Steinmetz taking the lead at the beginning and handing the baton to Angie Nellen two years ago.
“It’s such a good thing to teach our children,” said Nellen, Sagebrush Wranglers 4-H parent volunteer and this year’s wreath event coordinator. “We are teaching our children about citizenship, community and why we are a veteran’s town; to honor veterans.”
Veterans present were thankful for the youth of today respecting the fallen in this way.
“Once you’re gone, no one says your name,” said a veteran present who wished to remain anonymous, wanting the focus to be on the positive actions of the local youth, “it does mean so much to a lot of us veterans. We thank you so much.”
Due to COVID, no ceremony was allowed to take place and social distancing was a must. Traditionally there would have been a color guard provided by the American Legion as well as members of the VA in attendance.
“This year has offered it challenges for our 4-H,” said Nellen, with the lack of a county fair and restrictions on other events, but even COVID would not stop their laying of wreaths.
The wreaths are purchased by the club with funds raised through local donations, business and citizen wreath sponsorship and wreath sales.
Wreaths through this program were also laid at Black Hills National Cemetery in Sturgis, the State Veteran’s Home cemetery, and the Smithwick cemetery.
Another tradition that was lost this year was a ceremony placing a wreath at the entrance of the VA National cemetery for each service branch as well as MIA/POW. While this did not take place on Dec. 12, VA staff will ensure that those wreaths will be placed at the entrance on Dec. 18.
The wreaths will be on display at each location until January 15th, 2021.
Sagebrush Wranglers 4-H offers children the opportunity to participate in and learn about: rodeo, equine care, raising show stock, welding, shooting sports, and more. For more information contact the 4-H office exchange at 605-745-5133.