Local 8th graders bring Wreaths Across America to Kings County

ARMONA, Calif. -- Two 13-year-olds brought Wreaths Across America to Kings County this year by selling more than 1,000 wreaths to be laid on the graves of local veterans.

"We've noticed that, through the years, our veterans are being forgotten by the younger generations," said Wylee Barajas, an 8th-grade student at Jefferson Charter Academy. "And so we wanted veterans to be more known because our freedom was not always free."

Barajas and her friend Jayleen Chavez organized the ceremony as part of their Emerald Star Project for 4-H. They were able to sell 1,119 wreaths in a two-month span. The community gathered at Grangeville Cemetery in Armona on Saturday to lay the wreaths and pay their respects.

The ceremony featured a veteran presenting a wreath for each branch of the military. Families with veterans buried at Grangeville then had the opportunity to lay a wreath on their family member's grave, including Barajas and Chavez. Barajas' great grandfather is buried at the cemetery, as is Chavez's father.

"Before the ceremony, me and my mom and brother went to go lay a wreath on his grave," Chavez said. Her father, James Chavez, was a pilot for the Tulare County Sheriff's Office who was killed in a crash in 2016.

"We have talked to many veterans, a lot of them are very proud and happy to see that the veterans are being represented in this kind of special way for this upcoming Christmas," Barajas said. Volunteers spent the rest of the afternoon ensuring every veteran's grave had a wreath.

Wreaths Across America takes place every December, with ceremonies in more than 1,600 locations across all 50 states.