This post is a little off topic from my usual focus on the Civil War, but relates perfectly to my customary theme of honor and self-sacrifice — virtues that have been exhibited by those who have served in our military through the ages.

Many of you may have seen short news clips this month about the effort to decorate the graves of our fallen heroes with Christmas wreaths. But you may not be aware of the story behind the National Wreath Project and its connection to a Marine from my hometown of Gettysburg.

Remembering One And Honoring All
The wreath mission is an extension of a project started two years ago by John and Susan McColley through the Sgt. Mac Foundation. The McColleys are the parents of Gettysburg native and United States Marine Corps Sergeant Eric McColley, who was killed along with seven other Marines and two Airmen in a helicopter accident in the Horn of Africa on Feb. 17, 2006.

The wreath project began when Eric’s parents started placing wreaths on his grave around Thanksgiving of 2006. Each time they went back with a new wreath, they would place the existing wreath on the grave of a neighboring Marine. Susan eventually got the idea to purchase more wreaths to decorate as many graves as possible.

One thing led to another, and soon, through the generosity of Giant Foods, the McColleys were able to purchase 515 wreaths. With the help of friends, they placed them at Quantico National Cemetery in Virginia, where Eric is interred, on Christmas Day 2006. Encouraged by people who came and asked if they could help, the McColleys decided to make it an annual event.

Last year, the Foundation placed 2,100 wreaths on graves at Quantico. This year, they added 500 graves at Gettysburg National Cemetery in addition to another 2,100 at Quantico.

The National Wreath Project is not the Foundation’s only project. Their goal is to provide aid to active duty forward-deployed Marines. They also provide assistance to disabled veterans, plan day trips for those who are wounded in the line of duty, and supply care package assistance.

Honoring Eric’s memory was the driving force behind the creation of the Sgt. Mac Foundation, but it’s programs are much larger than any one individual. From The National Wreath Project to serving those confined to VA facilities, the mission is simple: Serving and remembering those that have served this country with honor.

I can’t think of a more worthwhile cause.


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