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Remembering the 2,350

Christmas wreaths for Auburn veteran gravesites
By: Gus Thomson, Reporter/Columnist
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The most recent count shows 2,350 military veterans are buried in the new and old Auburn cemeteries.

On Saturday morning, emotions will be in overdrive as dozens of people come together to place wreaths on graves of those who served their country and remember at Christmas holiday time.

Lawrence LaVerne, a veteran and technical coordinator of the Wreaths Across America ceremony in Auburn, will be stepping up to place a wreath for Air Force veterans. He served from 1961 to 1965.

“It’s a very profound and moving event,” LaVerne said. “I can’t help but be very thankful and thoughtful of those who went before us.”

About 1,600 wreaths have been ordered and are on their way from the Maine Wreaths Across America maker, driven nearly coast to coast to Auburn by volunteer truckers.

Paula Celick, location coordinator, said she keeps a close eye on the weather as the wreaths move eastward, concerned about blizzards bogging the shipment down and endangering the ceremony.

“Last year, we got ours at 5 p.m. the night before,” Celick said, adding that she breathes a sigh of relief when the load arrives.

“I never know until I get the call from the trucking company,” she added. “There’s a lot of I-80 out there to travel.”

The ceremony will start at 9 a.m. Saturday at the New Auburn Cemetery, 1040 Collins Drive in Auburn. Wreath unloading starts at 7:30 a.m.

At the ceremony, wreaths will be placed in honor of those who served by a group that includes Navy veteran and Pearl Harbor USS Arizona survivor Louis Conter.

The ceremony also is slated to includes a gun salute, taps, a flyover and a bagpiper playing “Amazing Grace.”

“It’s always emotional,” Celick said. “You can’t help it — thinking about what all our service people have done for our country in the past.”