ADEL, Iowa — On a frigid December morning, most of us would probably prefer to stay warmed up inside. But at the Iowa Veterans Cemetery, hundreds of veterans, family members and ordinary volunteers braved the elements to leave a token of their gratitude for the state's veterans.
"It's just unbelievable," said Patrick Palmersheim, volunteer location coordinator for Wreaths Across America. "I'm so proud to be here today, to be able to do this, especially for the community and for the veterans and their families that are come here,"
2022 marked the 15th anniversary of Wreaths Across America at the veterans cemetery. For many of the volunteers, the small gesture of laying a wreath can be deeply personal.
National Guard veteran Scott Little has helped out for the last four years.
"I'm remembering friends who have died too early," Little said. "Neither one of my friends had died in action. Both of them died after they got out of service. Both of them were army veterans."
The ceremony has seen some incredible growth. Volunteers laid over 4,000 wreaths around the cemetery. To put that into perspective, the first year the Iowa Veterans Cemetery hosted Wreaths Across America, there were only seven wreaths for the entire cemetery.
It only took about a half hour for volunteers to finish displaying the wreaths. But as the crowds began to head back to their warm homes, organizers hope the memory stays with them much longer.
"Remember our veterans at the holiday season when they're not around. I mean, everybody else is buying Christmas presents and celebrating, but the veterans aren't there to do that. And so we want to remember our veterans at all times," Palmersheim said.
More than 3,000 cemeteries participated in Wreaths Across America.
In Iowa, ceremonies were also held at Woodland Cemetery in Des Moines, McDivvit Grove Cemetery in Urbandale, and the Ames Municipal Cemetery.