PICTURED ARE, from left, Renard Chatman, veteran and president of the Vidalia Cemetery Association; Nathaniel Williams, veteran; Catherine Cartwright, secretary of the cemetery association, and G. Mark LaFrancis, president of the Home With Heroes Foundation and area coordinator for Wreaths Across America.

Home With Heroes Foundation has partnered with the City of Vidalia and the Vidalia Cemetery Association to honor veterans buried at the Vidalia City Cemetery through the Wreaths Across America Program.

Wreaths Across America is an international effort to honor the graves of veterans at both national and private cemeteries. Approximately 2,000 cemeteries worldwide and 22 cemeteries in Louisiana participate in the annual honor, which occurs in December. 

“It’s an honor to be able to honor veterans at the Vidalia cemetery,” said G. Mark LaFrancis, Home With Heroes president and area coordinator for Wreaths Across America. “This marks our third cemetery in the Miss-Lou where we honor deceased veterans. The other two are the Natchez National Cemetery and Greenlawn Memorial Park.”

Recently, Vidalia Mayor Buz Craft and the Vidalia Board of Aldermen unanimously approved the partnership and an allocation to help sponsor wreaths. Each wreath sponsorship is $15, with $5 of that used to help veterans and their loved ones in the Miss-Lou through the Home With Heroes Foundation, a private non-profit organization founded in 2013.

Craft said, "I would like to thank Home with Heroes Foundation, Inc for allowing the Town of Vidalia to be a sponsor of its Wreaths Across America program in honoring all of the local brave men and women that served our country in the armed forces. We are so glad to participate in such a worthy program and look forward to the evening when the wreaths will be placed."

“This means community coming together for the betterment of our community,” said Catherine Cartwright, secretary of the Vidalia Cemetery Association. “And this is a big step in the right direction for this community. And we are so grateful for Mark coming over … and Mr. Williams immediately got on to it (support for Wreaths Across America).”

She also thanked the veterans who served.

Individuals, businesses and organization may sponsor one or more wreaths regardless if they are not related to a specific veteran. Sponsorship cutoff is Nov. 30. The wreaths arrive shortly before Wreaths Across America Day Dec. 18. A ceremony is held, and family and volunteers place the wreaths, which remain on the graves of veterans for about a month.

Home With Heroes and the Vidalia Cemetery Association are undertaking an effort to identify veterans buried in the cemetery. Community help is needed as well.

Those who know of a veteran buried at the cemetery should call LaFrancis at 601-442-0980 or Cartwright at 318-336-7800 or 601-807-7021.

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