Vietnam veteran seeks funds for memorial Christmas wreaths
WILLMAR -- Last year, Vietnam War veteran Ron Mackedanz of Kandiyohi placed about 120 donated Christmas wreaths at gravesites of fallen soldiers from Kandiyohi County.
This year, with the help of donations from churches, individuals and organizations, Mackedanz hopes to buy and place 500 wreaths at gravesites of the county's fallen soldiers.
"I guess you could call it a labor of love. I just feel as a veteran myself, I see things that I just feel should be done,'' Mackedanz says.
His effort is similar to the program called Wreaths Across America, founded in 2006 by Karen and Morrill Worchester, owners of Worchester Wreath Co. of Harrington, Maine.
Mackedanz is a member of the Minnesota Patriot Guard, which attends funerals as invited guests to show respect for fallen military members.
Last year, Mackedanz heard that the Minnesota Patriot Guard state leadership was placing 3,500 wreaths donated by Wreaths Across America at gravesites at Fort Snelling Cemetery in Minneapolis just before Christmas.
Mackedanz was unable to participate, but he took it upon himself to do what he could locally. Not having any financial backing, he asked a few local merchants if they would be willing to donate wreaths for his project and received assistance from Menards and The Home Depot. As word got around, people donated money.
He obtained and placed about 120 wreaths at Fairview Cemetery in Willmar, Fairview Oak Hills Cemetery in Kandiyohi and First Norway Lake Lutheran Cemetery.
His goal this year is to place 500 wreaths at gravesites of service people killed in action during any war fought by the United States during the past 200 years.
Stacy's Nursery is providing wreaths. Area Boy Scouts helped Mackedanz lay a few wreaths Friday and will help place the remainder on Dec. 19. All wreaths will be removed within three weeks after Christmas.
Cash donations are being handled by the Blue Star Mothers Minnesota Chapter 1 of Willmar. Blue Star Mothers is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization of mothers who now have or have had children honorably serving in the military. Members serve each other and their children while promoting patriotism. Any contribution can be considered a tax-deductible donation.
Mackedanz obtained a list from the Kandiyohi County Veterans Service Office of nearly 1,700 veterans from Kandiyohi County who have died or were killed in action in various wars and the cemeteries where they're buried.
"Quite a bit of research has to go into this to try to get it all done. Once I get the KIAs (killed in action), I'll be going to the veterans that we've lost the most recently. That will be from last three to four years,'' he said.
"In some cases we have grave stones going all the way back to the War of 1812. I don't expect we're going to be able to cover all 1,700, but if we can cover 400 or 500 this year, I'd be very happy with that,'' he said.
Mackedanz also has a book from the Historical Society listing the county's cemeteries.
"A lot of these cemeteries are pretty much abandoned, but I have them all marked on a county map, and I intend to visit each one of these cemeteries and try to locate the gravesites of these soldiers,'' he said.
"It's going to be a challenge,'' he said. "I'm going to do as much as I can between now and Christmas and this will be a project that next spring I'll be working on quite extensively to locate these gravesites and have it ready for the following year.''