KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Just like how Santa travels across the world delivering gifts on Christmas, Wreaths Across America in Knoxville got a gift all the way from Maine on Thursday.
Trucks arrived filled with wreaths that were put at the gravestones of veterans in three cemeteries across Knoxville. It is a way the group honors veterans in East Tennessee and across the country.
However, Thursday morning proposed a worry. It was raining, foggy and chilly outdoors. Organizer for the Knoxville National Cemetery, Chad Rogers worried it would convince people not to come. But, that most certainly was not the case.
Nearly 1,000 community members showed up.
Chad's mother, Linda Rogers said it worried the whole family.
"We thought oh, gosh, it was gonna rain. We won't have anybody there. But, we had the biggest crowd that we've had, ever," Rogers said.
Due to the major turnout, Wreaths Across America reached their goal of getting 18,000 wreaths to place in cemeteries. They were placed at locations on John Sevier, Lyons View and the national cemetery on Saturday at noon.
In Knoxville National Cemetery alone, the community laid 9,000 wreaths.
Veterans in attendance agreed that the reason for the event is to make sure fallen soldiers are not forgotten during the holiday.
"To me, one of the worst things is to be forgotten. And they're not forgotten. And they'll always be here," Dana Rice said.
Rice was a member of the Navy in 1986. He served as a paramedic.
For the Wreaths Across America ceremony, Rice was selected to lay the third wreath, which represented the Navy.
"To think this is happening in other cemeteries throughout the world I was just glad to be a little part of it," Rice said. "I was really happy to lay that wreath, I really was."
"We've had some years where Wreaths Across America has struggled to have enough funds to place on all the veterans' graves, but I think they got to a point now, at least for East Tennessee, we've got enough to place on every veteran's grave," said Kevin Knowles, a cemetery director.
He also said that the group includes family members of veterans, as well as volunteers. He also said that the support they receive in East Tennessee is tremendous.
"We have a huge veteran support community, we have a lot of retired veterans here," said Knowles. "What I see here and across the state is support."