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Mike Horne, director of the New Hampshire Veterans Cemetery, demonstrates why the cemetery has canceled this week's planned removal of wreaths from gravesites. (DAN SEUFERT PHOTO)

Snowed in

Wintery weather mix forces cancellation of state Veterans Cemetery wreath pickup

BOSCAWEN — A yearly event to clean up the holiday wreaths from the grave sites at the New Hampshire State Veterans Cemetery scheduled for this weekend has been cancelled because of the recent storms, which brought snow and ice to the graves.

Mike Horne, the cemetery's director, said the wreath pick-up event is scheduled each year for one of the first weekends after New Year's Day. The unnamed event has been held for the past five years.

Wreaths are removed from the grave sites and disposed of, Horne said. This is the first time it's been cancelled.

Horne decided to cancel the event because the recent snow, which was followed by rain and sleet, anchored the wreaths to the grounds near the stones.

In some cases, they are frozen to the stones themselves.

"We know that the volunteers would be here Saturday if we let them, but with the snow and ice, there would be a lot of wreath pieces left behind, or there could even be damage to the grave stones," Horne said.

"I just don't want to take that chance," he said.

The wreaths are laid against the gravestones each year by the Blue Star Mothers, a group supporting veteran causes. In line with the procedure at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C., one-fourth of the more than 4,000 graves at the cemetery are decorated with the wreaths each year on a rotation schedule.

The local chapter of Blue Star Mothers raised several thousand dollars to pay for the wreaths this year, Horne said.

But the pickup of the wreaths will have to wait.

"The rain we had seeped down through the snow and froze many of them. If it had stayed just powder snow, we would have been all right," he said. "There are safety issues as well, it's slippery out there."

Horne said he is considering two options for removal of the wreaths: The cemetery staff could pick them up, or another day may be scheduled – if the snow and ice conditions improve – in February or March.

"It's a nice big event, we know people have it on their calendars," Horne said. "We're disappointed, I'm sure a lot of people are disappointed, but it was the right thing to do."

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