Each December, a team of volunteers comes together across the nation to honor those who have fallen in service to their country.
At the Alabama National Cemetery in Montevallo, Alabama, one of the regular volunteers is Kahlie Goke. She has strong ties to the military and is motivated to participate in Wreaths Across America, which remembers fallen U.S. veterans, honors those who serve and teaches children the value of freedom.
“I am a proud military spouse of nine years and come from a military family,” Goke said. “I have worked with or alongside the military for several years. It means something to me to honor those who came before me.”
Capt. Bobby Newsome oversees the annual Wreaths Across America service in Montevallo.
The Commander of the Bessemer Civil Air Patrol/U.S. Air Force Auxiliary, his unit jumped in when the national cemetery first opened.
That responsibility means providing wreaths for every grave – a minimum of 4,950, at a minimum cost of $10 a wreath – raising the funds, finding volunteers and preparing for the future. According to Newsome, internments grow by 80-100 every year.
“it’s a huge undertaking with a lot of logistics,” Newsome said. “And my father is buried there. So it’s personal.”
The ceremony strikes a chord with Goke, as well. She knows the hardships military families endure through temporary separations. She can only imagine what it feels like to lose a family member in service.
“My hometown is a military town and many people are aware of this initiative,” she said. “However, here in Birmingham, it isn’t well known. My husband and I will only be stationed here a couple more years and I want to leave knowing that I did something to spread the word about this cause.”
Kahlie Goke is a Regions associate in Birmingham, Alabama.