“We’re going to do this next year,” said Jeff Bailey with the Sons of Confederate Veterans in Stone Mountain, a group that hosts a Memorial Day event at the Confederate cemetery there. “Since they’re trying it out here and it looks like it’s going to work, we’re going to do this next year.”
Long a tradition at the Marietta National Cemetery, where Union soldiers are buried, Houston Spencer, a colonel in the Old Guard of the Gate City Guard, said he wanted to bring the event to the Confederate cemetery.
“These are veterans too,” he said. “These are soldiers that died for what they thought was right. When I’m over at the National Cemetery, I thought, ‘We’ve got veterans across the railroad tracks, they need to be recognized as well.’ After a couple years, I said, ‘What the hell, let’s do it.’ ”
Around 150 volunteers showed up to lay the wreaths after a half-hour ceremony at adjacent Brown Park.
“The wreath celebration is a wonderful experience and very relevant,” Marietta Mayor Steve Tumlin told the audience. “We’re very glad to have it in two places in our city.”
While wreaths were placed on soldiers graves, the event resembled a Memorial Day event more than a Christmas celebration. Taps was played instead of Christmas carols and Santa Claus was nowhere to be found, but people came dressed in Civil War-era garb.
“Even though this is the Christmas season, this is not a Christmas celebration,” Spencer said. “This is a reverent remembrance to honor the soldiers and what they did for us.”
Others attending include Marietta City Councilmen Philip Goldstein and Grif Chalfant and state Rep. Don Parsons (R-east Cobb).
After the ceremony, public officials, members of Confederate organizations and volunteers who just showed up for the ceremony made their way up the hill to the Georgia area of the Confederate ceremony where they placed wreaths on 150 graves.
“I think it’s time we honor our heritage, even though a lot of folks have forgotten it, and honor the blood, sweat and sacrifice of the veterans, as well as the families that supported the Confederate soldiers,” said volunteer Ken Myers, 63, of Marietta.
Spencer said he was only able to raise enough money for 150 of the $15 evergreen wreaths this year. He hopes to someday raise enough to place one at all 3,600 graves. He is already collecting money for the 2013 Wreaths Across America. For information on donating, call (770) 419-7153.
The Wreaths Across America event was one of around 600 at cemeteries and memorials across the country, each held at noon eastern time, Spencer said. The events are spearheaded by a Columbia Falls, Maine nonprofit organization.
At the Marietta National Cemetery, 2,767 wreaths were placed on graves Saturday.