ST. LOUIS, Missouri — A widow grieving her first Thanksgiving without her husband of 57 years visited his grave at Jefferson Barracks, a national military cemetery, on Thursday morning so she wouldn't be alone without him.
"He was a great guy," Pat Foushee said holding back tears. "We loved him."
Her late husband Donald Foushee served in the U.S. Navy during the Cuban Missile Crisis. He came home in 1964 and started a family with Pat.
"He only died a month ago," she said. "And it's Thanksgiving. And of course we were all thankful we had him. I hadn't been up there to his grave yet, so I got to walk out there today."
What she didn't know is that in about two weeks, thousands more people will pay a visit in person or send truckloads of gifts to Jefferson Barracks to make sure those gravestones won't sit alone during the holiday season.
Volunteers are raising money and awareness as they prepare to deliver truckloads of Wreaths Across America to lay commemorative decorations on the white marble headstones at American military cemeteries.
"It's an absolutely beautiful sight to see when the wreaths are laid," local organizer Kathy Schulte said on Thursday morning.
So far, her group has raised enough money to lay a wreath at more than 17,163 headstones, or roughly 10% of the 177,000 American soldiers buried at the cemetery.
Wreaths cost $15. Donors can designate where to lay the wreath, or they can opt for a volunteer to place it anywhere at a military cemetery. They plan to start laying the wreaths of remembrance 11 a.m. Dec. 17 at Jefferson Barracks.
"Our goal is to hit 50,000," Schulte said. "Our true goal someday down the line, we want to be the Arlington of the Midwest. We want to have the entire cemetery covered one year just to show how much we honor and respect what these people have done for our country."
To find out more about donating or volunteering with "Wreaths Across America," click here.
The deadline to donate is Tuesday, Nov. 29.