EDWARDSVILLE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — A local community is celebrating the holiday season in a patriotic way. It’s honoring and remembering veterans with what is called the Warrior Tree Project.
On Sunday, families, children, and veterans gathered for the 10th Annual Warrior Christmas Tree Lighting. The tree honors all the holiday seasons with family and friends missed at home by those who have served.
Escorted by Edwardsville police, people in the community paraded into veterans park on sunday to salute those who have served and sacrificed.
The patriotic tradition was celebrated by recruiters from all branches of the military.
“When I first heard of this program, I thought this was awesome and I think the soldiers over there really appreciate it,” said AMVETS Department Service Officer Michael Price.
“Military in general, in general, it’s just doing the right thing and standing behind. I am did not serve however show our respect,” said CMC Land and Tree LLC Christopher McCabe, who trimmed the tree.
The main event was the lighting of the Warrior Tree, decorated in painted star ornaments by students at State Street Elementary School.
The stars come in various colors. The red is for the veterans’ reserves, the white for the wounded in action, the blue, for the active duty, in combat and deployed, the yellow for those killed in action, and the black for prisoners of war and missing in action.
“I always had a very special place in my heart for our veterans and those who serve our country because they do so much. They put their lives at risk so selflessly and I am so glad, and, and proud to be able to support them in any way I can,” said Edwardsville Warrior Tree Project Founder Karen Declet.
The tradition first started as an idea in 2012. That is when Declet received a phone call from her son Zachary Hunter, who at the time was serving in the Marine Corps. He told her he would be coming home for the holidays.
But she soon realized others would not.
“I said to my husband we have to do something about this, so we went to Walmart, got a pre-lit tree, threw on some red and blue lights on it as well and momma needs a bigger tree, and here it is,” said Declet.
It’s been a tradition since 2014. In recent years, Hunter has added to the tradition by laying out 22 pairs of combat boots at the base of the tree. They symbolize the number of veterans lost to suicide each day.
“Don’t forget those who may be in attendance now, but haven’t actually laced their boots up and made their final journey home,” Hunter explained.
“We are going to be here supporting them until they all get out, until war is actually over, and of course, we hope that is very soon,” Declet said.
Declet says the tree will be lit in the park each day from dusk to dawn.