Dayton National Cemetery in Ohio reached a record number of sponsorships this year for its annual participation in Wreaths Across America, in part due to the efforts of a Saint Viator sophomore.
Ashleigh Jarvis-Flinn ’21 promoted Wreaths Across America this fall as part of her effort to earn the Girl Scout Gold Award. She and her family drove to Dayton on Dec. 15 for the laying of the wreaths ceremony, when nearly 2,700 wreaths were laid on the graves of veterans, including her grandfather’s.
“I’ve been in Girl Scouts since I was in first grade,” Ashleigh says. “Since I’m in high school, I wanted to finish it out. Earning the Gold Award would be the ultimate. It’s the highest award in Girl Scouting.”
Ashleigh started out in a Girl Scout troop based out of St. Hubert’s School, and of those that started with her, six high school students remain involved. They are in Troop 40482, led by Mrs. Joyce Moynihan.
Just last summer, the teens completed the Girl Scout Silver Award and now have set their sights higher. The Gold Award is likened to Boy Scout’s Eagle Award. In order to earn it, girls are challenged to “demonstrate leadership through take-action projects, that have a sustainable impact in their communities and beyond.”
Ashleigh became aware of the Wreaths Across America initiative when her grandfather, Major Roger “Bud” Flanik, an Air Force veteran and former Viet Nam fighter pilot, passed away in 2016. He is buried at the Dayton National Cemetery, home to more than 47,000 veterans.
Wreaths Across America started more than 20 years ago when its founders drew sponsors to purchase Christmas wreaths to lay on the graves of veterans at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington. Currently, more than 1,400 veteran cemeteries take part each year. Their same mission drives them: “to remember the fallen, honor those who serve and teach children the value of freedom.”
“As a family, we pledged to place a wreath on Grandpa’s headstone,” Ashleigh says, “during the laying of the wreaths ceremony each year.”
That’s when she realized she could advance the project’s mission and make a larger impact on her own community and the veteran community.
Ashleigh began her project last fall when she set out to fundraise for more wreaths to place at the graves of veterans at the Dayton National Cemetery. She began by designing a website that educates visitors about Wreaths for America and her own personal story, of her grandfather’s heroism.
She then promoted her project through Facebook and other social media outlets, and wound up earning enough for 60 wreaths, and thus helping the cemetery reach a record this year.
“What touched my heart was knowing that each time a wreath is placed upon a grave,” Ashleigh said, “that a veteran’s name is said out loud. What a perfect way to honor and validate that they still matter to us, and will never be forgotten.”