Wreaths placed throughout Jacksonville State Veterans Cemetery

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JACKSONVILLE - An estimated 400 people attended a wreath laying ceremony Saturday at the Jacksonville State Veterans Cemetery.

It was one of about 1,200 ceremonies at cemeteries across the United Sates and overseas.

Jim Nugent, the director of the Jacksonville cemetery, said approximately 1,600,000 wreaths were placed Saturday at locations across the country and overseas.  

Donations from individuals and businesses funded the 1,250 wreaths that were placed at each headstone throughout the Jacksonville cemetery, which covers 31 counties from Jefferson City to the Iowa line to St. Louis, Nugent said.

Ernie Allen, a member of the Audrain County Veterans of Foreign Wars post 3772, has headed the fundraising campaign for wreaths for the past two years.

While individual donations make up a majority of the donations, there were donations from corporations, such as one from U.S. Cellular, Allen said.

"This year, it took a little over $15,000 to get enough wreaths for every grave out here," Allen said.

Wreaths Across America ships the wreaths to cemeteries, though it is up to local organizations to come up with the money to purchase the wreaths.

The ceremony Saturday featured a presentation of colors, stories about veterans at Christmas time during war and a reading of veterans' names.

The ceremony was "similar to military honors at a funeral," Nugent, the cemetery director, said.

People who have family members buried at the cemetery first went to place wreaths, followed by others. 

Anyone interested in donating can write a check to Wreaths Across America and send it to Audrain County VFW post 3772. The post's address is P.O. Box 249, Mexico, Missouri, 65265.

Allen said he planned to start fundraising for next year on Monday.