CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Wreaths Across America was created to remember and appreciate the sacrifices from military members and their families during the holiday season.

On Monday, dozens gathered at the West Virginia Veterans Memorial at the State Capitol Complex in Charleston to kick off the weeklong event and lay a wreath at a Statehouse Ceremony.

“Today’s event is a show of unity among the 50 states and a few territories to come together and honor our nation’s veterans,” Shaun Jedju, Founder of the Historic Clarksburg WV Cemetery Preservation Alliance and ceremony organizer, said.

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Over 700,000 wreaths are expected to be laid to honor veterans and current military during the holidays.

Wreaths Across America is a nationwide campaign with ceremonies taking place all week long across all 50 states and some territories. The week ends with a National Wreaths Across America Day on Saturday, December 15.

Wreaths are laid across veterans’ memorials and cemeteries.

“I feel like this is the least we can do,” Jedju said. “To show our respects, to give thanks and appreciation to all those who have stepped up, served our nation, put their lives on the line to defend our freedoms. Some of them don’t come back as Secretary of State (Mac) Warner mentioned about one individual who was tortured. You don’t want to forget people.”

Warner, a 23-year veteran, was the keynote speaker of the ceremony. He was joined by West Virginia State Senator Mike Romano (D-Harrison) and Mark McMillion as speakers honoring and thanking veterans and current military. Clarksburg City Councilman Ryan Kennedy served as Master of the Ceremonies.

“Wreaths Across America is personal due to families connections to the military,” Jedju said. “My great-grandfather fought in World War II out in Japan. I have a cousin that has been deployed six or seven times to Iraq and points in between. I have two grandfathers that were Navy and it speaks to me.”

Jedju said the Wreaths Across America program is growing nationwide with around 1,700 cemeteries holding ceremonies compared to 1,400 in 2017. According to Wreaths Across America’s latest numbers, in 2014 over 700,000 memorial wreaths were laid at sites including the organization’s goal of covering Arlington National Cemetery with the placement of 226,525 wreaths.

The focus of the campaign is to remember and honor any and all veterans from the revolutionary war to the most recent war at national and local cemeteries, and to teach about the sacrifices they have made.

“Last year when we did our first ceremony, we did the wreath ceremony at all three locations that we care for,” Jedju said. “That way every individual that was there at least gets paid the proper respects that they were denied for so long.”

For more information on ceremonies, ways to lay wreaths or sponsor a wreath, visit the organization’s website at wreathsacrossamerica.org.