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Wreaths will celebrate Zelie veterans

William Morgan adjusts the flags at the grave of Paul Geissenhainer
William Morgan, commander of the Sons of the American Legion Post 474 in Zelienople, adjusts the flags at the grave of Paul Geissenhainer on Nov. 14 at the Zelienople Community Cemetery. Morgan is organizing a Wreaths Across America event for Dec. 16 at the cemetery. Shane Potter/Butler Eagle

ZELIENOPLE — Yet another patriotic county resident has decided to honor the fallen veterans in his community by organizing a Wreaths Across America ceremony, but unlike other newcomers to the program around the county, this event is fully funded.

William Morgan, commander of the Sons of the American Legion Post 474, said he has enough wreaths to decorate the resting places of 571 veterans in the Zelienople Cemetery on South Oliver Street.

Each wreath is $17, but Morgan said he will not be soliciting more to pay for the wreaths because there is enough money for this year.

“We had a great response from the community,” Morgan said. “It costs more than $5,000 to fund, and we are 24% funded for next year.”

He said the project was advertised on the Post 474’s Facebook page as well as the post’s Sons of the American Legion page.

Morgan said the post’s Home Association donated $1,500 for wreaths, and the Hungarian Benefit Society in Zelienople donated $1,000.

He said many individuals in Zelienople bought wreaths online at the Wreaths Across America website as well.

“When we did flyers in local shops and people heard this had never been done here, there was a real buzz about it,” Morgan said.

He said at first, he thought there were just 274 veteran graves in the vast Zelienople Community Cemetery, but he worked with the Zelienople Historical Society to check the sprawling cemetery to find all the veteran graves.

Morgan said the Fombell Area Historical Society just over the county line in Beaver County had better maps of the cemetery’s oldest section, where veterans of the War of 1812 and the Spanish-American War are interred.

“They were a great help,” he said.

Morgan said a ceremony will be held on Dec. 16 at the flagpole near the main mausoleum, where officials will speak, the honor guard from Post 474 will post the colors, and the squadron chaplain from the post will say a prayer.

A Boy Scout troop from Zelienople and members of Post 474 will help lay the wreaths at each veteran’s grave.

The public is invited to attend.

“It’s our job as Sons of the American Legion to continue the legacy of veterans after they pass, honor the fallen, and support veterans in every possible way,” Morgan said.

Zelienople Mayor Tom Oliverio, himself a Coast Guard veteran who served from 1959 to 1963, said he plans to be involved in the Wreaths Across America ceremony.

Oliverio serves as a speaker at veterans’ ceremonies at the Pinewood Cemetery in Cranberry Township as well as in Zelienople on Veterans Day and Memorial Day.

He applauded Morgan for his efforts and those who provided donations or purchased wreaths online for the upcoming ceremony and wreath-layings.

“You think of Normandy and other battles, they gave their lives, and they were 18, 19 years old,” Oliverio said. “How do you forget something like that?”

Morgan said while he was unable to serve due to a medical issue when he was younger, his father was a Navy SEAL during the Vietnam War.

“He smiled and said, ‘Do you understand how much work this is going to be?’” Morgan said of his dad’s reaction.

Morgan also is district vice commander for the Sons of the American Legion 26th District.

“We stand today on free ground because of veterans,” he said. “If you are unable to serve, you should help those who did.”

William Morgan tends to the grave of Civil War veteran Paul Geissenhainer
William Morgan, commander of the Sons of the American Legion Post 474 in Zelienople, tends to the grave of Civil War veteran Paul Geissenhainer, for whom Post 474 was named. Morgan will honor Geissenhainer and the 570 other veterans in the cemetery on Dec. 16 during a Wreaths Across America ceremony. Shane Potter/Butler Eagle
William Morgan
William Morgan, commander of the Sons of the American Legion Post 474 in Zelienople, will help conduct a wreath-laying ceremony Dec. 16 in Zelienople Community Cemetery on South Oliver Street. Shane Potter/Butler Eagle
William Morgan
William Morgan, commander of the Sons of the American Legion Post 474 in Zelienople, will help conduct a wreath-laying ceremony Dec. 16 in Zelienople Community Cemetery on South Oliver Street. Shane Potter/Butler Eagle

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