The numbers are staggering.
A total of 32,000 wreaths would be needed to place one at the grave of every veteran buried at the Veterans Cemetery in Exeter. That’s not going to happen this Saturday, when Wreaths Across America ceremonies are conducted at the cemetery starting at 11:45 a.m.
But, says Mike “Gizmo” Dalmazzi, a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and coordinator of Rhode Island Wreaths Across America, more than two sections beginning with Section H will receive wreaths – a total of more than 3,800 wreaths.
Helping make that number possible are Winman Middle School 6th graders who took on Wreaths Across America as a class project. Their efforts, all part of Project Based Learning (PBL), culminated Wednesday morning during an assembly where students talked about veterans, watched a presentation on veterans and got to meet veterans who are members of the Patriot Guard Riders and Combat Vets, motorcycle groups comprised of veterans.
As Wendy Amelotte, director of curriculum for Warwick schools explained, PBL is designed to engage students in a project that requires them to apply what they have learned to the community.
As it turns out, Winman is only the third school in the state to work with Wreaths Across America. Dalmazzi said the class signed up as a group, thereby enabling them to multiply efforts to buy wreaths. Under the program, individuals can purchase wreaths to be placed at a veteran’s grave for $15. As a group, however, for each two wreaths purchased, they can get a $5 per wreath refund or a third wreath. The Winman students chose to apply for the additional wreath, thereby coming up with 75 wreaths.
Dalmazzi isn’t deterred by the daunting number of wreaths needed to place one at the stone of every veteran at the cemetery. At the first Wreaths Across America event, there were enough wreaths for 400 grave markers. He said as the event gains publicity and groups like those at Winman join in, the numbers would grow.
It’s not only a matter of wreaths, either. Dalmazzi said an estimated 400 volunteers will help place the 3,800 wreaths. Pulling it all together has further required a giant 20 by 100-foot tent to house all those expected to attend Saturday’s ceremony. Among those expected to attend will be some of the Winman students who had a role in making it possible.
It’s just what PBL is all about.