Wreaths honor fallen troops in Gettysburg National Cemetery

GETTYSBURG, P.A.  --- A total of 1,620 wreaths will rest at the burial spot of military members at Gettysburg Soldiers' National Cemetery as part of the twelfth year of the National Wreath Project.

The project started in honor of Sergeant Eric McColley, a U.S. marine killed off the coast of Africa in 2006 along with seven fellow marines and two airmen.

This year, Stan Clark, board member of the SGT. Mac Foundation, said they will lay a total of 13,500 wreaths, which is up from over 11,000 the year before.

"The fact that a project like this continues to grow and has more support is very encouraging. It gives you renewed faith in the human race," said Clark.

Gettysburg Soldiers' National Cemetary was an addition to the project about ten years ago, after Clark said it's where SGT. McColley was born and raised.

200 volunteers ranging from local residents, school groups and veterans organizations help put bows on the wreaths, by hand.

"All age groups, all economic situations, all politics persuasions but everybody gets together, works together for the common cause," said Clark.

The first year of the National Wreath Project, they only had 500 total wreaths.

"It was just a thought and now it's just grown and it has a mind if it's own," said Susan McColley, Eric's mother.

McColley said it's always an emotional time for them, seeing friends of Eric.

She said what means the most to them., are the people that come whom they've never met before.

"All the time that these volunteers put in for us is just amazing. I can't be more appreciative than I am for these people and for what they have done to keep my son's name and all the other young men that we honor," said McColley.

Clark said the motivation to lay thousands of wreaths each year comes with their motto.

"By remembering one, we honor all. So we not only do it in Eric's name, but we do it to honor and pay tribute to all our deceased and fallen veterans," said Clark

The remaining 11,800 wreaths will be laid Saturday at Quantico National Cemetary in Virginia.

That is where SGT. McColley is in interred.