“We will never forget our veterans,” said Jim Beebe, chairman of the wreaths program through the Elks. “We’re fortunate to have the hospital (Veterans Affairs Illiana Health Care System) and cemetery in the community.”
The Danville lodge and eight other Elks lodges in the district, from Paris to Bloomington, will make donations for wreaths.
The Elks lodge is a fraternal, not a military, organization, Beebe said, but the group works with veterans’ programs, such as Wounded Warriors, homeless veterans and bingo at the VA.
People may order wreaths through the Elks lodge, making sure they note the honored veteran’s name, date of death and grave location. The graves can be at any cemetery, not just the Danville National Cemetery. Last year, Beebe said, five wreaths were ordered for veterans at other cemeteries.
Williams has never been to a Wreaths Across America ceremony; instead, she stumbled across it on Facebook and wanted to get involved. Also, at Christmas one year, she was at the National Cemetery visiting a friend’s grave when she saw a few wreaths, but not many.
Williams also is getting involved in Wreaths Across America in honor of her friend, Kirk Melton, who died in a car accident in 2012. Both had worked at Presence United Samaritans Medical Center. Melton, who had been a medic in the Army, is buried at the National Cemetery, and Williams tends his grave.
“This is my friend. I want to make sure he’s honored,” she said.
She had often told Melton, “If you’re willing to sacrifice your life for me, the least I can do is be patriotic for you.”
Williams’ husband, Keith, is a veteran, and she’s raising her 13-year-old daughter, Kathryn Walker, to honor veterans.
Williams hopes people will get involved with donations and volunteering their time, and that businesses will make corporate donations.