Wreaths Across America grows every year powered by patriotic citizens who make up one of the largest volunteer forces known to any nonprofit organization. Each of these individuals is genuine in their motivation to serve the mission to remember, honor, and teach. These volunteers understand the importance of history and the contributions of the men and women who came before us willing to answer our nation's call to duty. 

Our volunteers are engaged as the #CountDowntoWreathDay is on and they're making very personal connections with the lives of our hometown heroes to be sure no one is forgotten.

Wreaths Across America volunteer Luann Waters would like to introduce you to Thomas Franklin Dillard one of her hometown heroes laid to rest with over 500 other veterans in Oaklawn Cemetery in Wynnewood, Oklahoma.

Luann learned of Thomas' history when her local paper, the Wynnewood Gazette, ran an article back in June. The article was written in 1945 by Thomas Dillard who served in World War II and was taken prisoner by the Germans during the Battle of the Bulge.

Luann tells us, Thomas' wife Ruby Ella is still living and grateful her husband's valor and sacrifice is honored annually with a veterans remembrance wreath.

Luann met Thomas Dillard before he passed away in 2011 and says in addition to being a military veteran who received the Purple Heart and Bronze Star, Thomas was an accomplished artist and Ruby Ella still has the very first painting Thomas did for her.

"To see what the symbolism of that fresh wreath means to Ruby and other family members is what motivates me," Luann explains.

It's also Luann's desire to preserve history to teach younger generations the value of our freedoms that keep her involved. As she and other volunteers research the stories behind those fallen hometown heroes, the information is being shared with the cemeteries and the historical society.

"Our historical society had a veterans exhibit that was up for about ten years and we took it down last year in hopes of revising it to include this new research information."

Luann started her volunteer efforts with Wreaths Across America in 2015 after hearing about it from a friend who was participating with her DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) group. She's working to sponsor wreaths to cover all of the known heroes laid to rest at Oaklawn and encouraging others to join her efforts in researching veterans who may be buried there but are currently unknown to them.

"There are two other cemeteries in Wynnewood, and a woman has reached out to me to find out more about Wreaths Across America, and she's starting to research as well and reaching out to her church to get involved in sponsoring veterans remembrance wreaths," Luann explains.

It's just that kind of grassroots energy and commitment to saying their names that expands the Wreaths Across America mission to remember of fallen, honor those who serve and teach younger generations the value of freedom.

Luann says last year they were successful in getting more wreaths sponsored than the first year she started and that in itself has been a source of encouragement as she works to cover veterans headstones this year.

Luann and all of our remarkable volunteers are counting down to National Wreaths Across America Day, Saturday, December 16, 2017.

You can follow our Countdown To Wreath Day web shows on FaceBook and tune in to Wreaths Across America Radio at 10:00AM Eastern, Monday Through Friday for our special feature series: 100 Reasons Why We Remember, Honor and Teach; Count Down to Wreath Day.

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