Wreaths Across America knows there's a story behind the name etched on every headstone honored on National Wreaths Across America Day in December. The same is true for the volunteers who carry out the mission to remember, honor and teach.

Christa Parker is a self-described military brat and went to high school in Germany. Her father, Victor Rose, served in the U.S. Army as a helicopter pilot achieving the rank of CW5 before retirement. Her husband, MSG Christopher Parker, currently serves in the U.S. Army, so her motivation to support the military is evident. But it's the loss she and her family suffered that cemented her conviction to be sure no one is ever forgotten. 

Her son PFC Garrett Parker, one of four children, signed up for the Infantry and completed his basic training at Fort Benning, Georgia but his military service was cut short by a tragic motorcycle crash three years ago while on leave.

PFC Garrett Parker

PFC Garrett Parker

While her notion of "wreaths just falling from the sky onto veterans' graves in December" is a lovely thought, she has since come to understand those wreaths appear as the result of hundreds of thousands of hard-working volunteers and compassionate citizens who sponsor a wreath to remember and honor our fallen heroes.

Christa Parker's love for her son, country, and volunteerism with Wreaths Across America knows no boundaries, quite literally.  Her volunteer efforts frequently have her crossing states lines and her stamina and organizational efforts are an inspiration to all.

Christa and her family were stationed in Kansas when Garrett died but they had lived previously in Bridgeport, West Virginia for ten and a half years and he considered it home, so the family decided to have Garrett buried in West Virginia.

When she reached out to Wreaths Across America to sponsor a wreath for Garrett's grave she learned wreath-laying ceremonies were not limited to National cemeteries, so she decided to start one where Garrett was laid to rest. Christa and her husband are now stationed in Michigan, but she's the Location Coordinator and Team Leader for Bridgeport, WV.

In getting permission from the cemetery, Christa quickly realized a great deal of work lied ahead in her quest to keep the memory of her son, and the hundreds of other veterans with whom he shared this final resting place, alive.

"The cemetery office was in the process of updating their system, so they didn't know where all the veterans were buried," Christa explains. " My daughter and I walked every row and every section of that eighty-five acres and wrote down all of the veterans information, and that took about six or seven months. Then we sat down and read all of their obituary files on record and discovered more veterans who didn't have a military marker and that took us several more months. Now we're mapping out where they are so we can put markers down to identify them for wreaths."

Christa's daily efforts to remember, honor and teach best illustrate a year-long mindset and commitment to military veterans and their families, so no one is ever forgotten. She's not just researching the lives of fallen heroes, but she's regularly fundraising for Team Bridgeport to sponsor wreaths to cover over fifteen hundred veterans' headstones.

That's what prompted her to enter the Wreaths Across America FaceBook contest, "Pictures of Patriotism" in July. Christa's picture received the top number of votes, and she earned one hundred wreaths to help her honor one hundred veterans.

"It was tough for my family and me to put that picture out and have it shared over and over again because even though it's been three years, it seems like it was only yesterday," Christa shares. "I had a photographer at Garrett's funeral because I didn't want to forget and I really didn't remember much of that month at all from the moment military officials showed up at our door."

Chris Parker, Victor Rose and Garrett Parker at Garrett's basic training graduation.

Chris Parker, Victor Rose and Garrett Parker at Garrett's basic training graduation.

Acknowledging Christa Parker's family's proud heritage of service to our nation, their sacrifices, and courage is what powers the Wreaths Across America mission.

 

 

 

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