CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – City officials and local volunteers will honor veterans laid to rest at Riverview Cemetery with the placement of balsam wreaths on their graves as part of National Wreaths Across America Day 2020.
The ceremony will be at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 19 at the cemetery, one of more than 2,200 veterans wreath-laying ceremonies planned that day across America. Citizens are invited, and the event will require participants to wear face-coverings and social distance to prevent the potential spread of COVID-19.
Clarksville Police officers will direct traffic around the cemetery Saturday morning. Motorists should enter the area from the north end of Spring Street, which will be one-way southbound to accommodate the event. Visitors will be directed to parking in the cemetery and along Spring Street.
This will be the first time a Wreaths Across America event is conducted at Riverview Cemetery. The non-profit organization is best known for placing veterans' wreaths on the headstones of the nation's fallen at Arlington National Cemetery each year. But the organization also places more than 2.2 million sponsored wreaths at thousands of participating locations nationwide. Wreaths Across America operates according to its motto: “Remember our fallen heroes, honor those who serve, and teach younger generations the value of freedom.”
Mayor Joe Pitts will speak to open the event, which will include presentations of wreaths honoring each branch of the U.S. Armed Forces and a POW/MIA wreath. A Colonial Color Guard will present the 13 Folds of the Flag. Then families and volunteers will place individual wreaths on some 280 identified veteran graves in the historic hillside cemetery above the Cumberland River.
Bill Harpel, the City’s Military Liaison, along with City staff members Angie Sykes, Heather Fleming, William Welty and Henry Kilpatrick, worked to organize the local Wreaths Across America event.
Riverview Cemetery has existed since Feb. 23, 1800, when Clarksville was a frontier village, on land donated by Valentine Sevier, one of the community’s founders who was the first recorded interment. It is considered the oldest known public burial grounds in the area, and is still an active cemetery.
Formerly known as City Cemetery, Clarksvillians changed its name to Riverview Cemetery, appropriate because it overlooks the Cumberland River, on June 7, 1929. Men of all American wars are interred there, including Revolutionary War soldier Robert Nelson and many pioneer and 19th century citizens. One plot contains the reinterred remains of 125 Confederate soldiers.