Ambassadors Jennifer Merrill and Stephan Brann, who is also the driver, stand inside the Wreaths Across America vehicle before they leave California to go back to Maine after a cross-country tour. (Sean Roney/Staff)

KING CITY — A mobile educational exhibit from Wreaths Across America visited King City last Friday, during which more than 50 community members learned about the initiative to honor veterans.

Three Vietnam veterans also received pins and one wife of a Vietnam veteran was presented with a service recognition at the May 14 exhibit, which was organized through the efforts of Kathy Imamura, Caring for America chairperson for Southern Monterey County Republican Women Federated.

“We are going to be having a ceremony Dec. 18 at King City Cemetery,” Imamura said.

At the official ceremony in December, wreaths will be laid upon the graves of veterans, the goal of Wreaths Across America, which has a tour that starts in Maine before heading across the country.

“This was a very rare opportunity to learn about this vehicle’s coming to California,” Imamura said.

King City was among the tour’s last stops, as the vehicle had previously been in Concord for two days, and prior to that was in San Jose as part of its California travels.

Imamura described the history of the effort, started by a wreath maker who donated more than 5,000 wreaths to Arlington National Cemetery. That recognition effort grew to more cities, and has reached King City.

King City Mayor Mike LeBarre (from left) visits with Stephan Brann, Jeane Errea-Mills, Kathy Imamura and Brad Imamura at the Wreaths Across America vehicle May 14 at the Salinas Valley Fairgrounds. LeBarre will preside over a veteran memorial ceremony in December at the King City Cemetery. (Contributed Photo)

Since this year’s Salinas Valley Fair took place with an altered format, the Wreaths Across America tour vehicle was allowed to park in the fairgrounds parking lot in King City to inform area residents about the program.

“The mayor of King City, Mike LeBarre, is going to be officiating it on Dec. 18,” Imamura said. “That’s the date that cemeteries throughout the United States are participating in this wreath laying.”

She said volunteers will work to put wreaths on veteran graves, but the wreaths themselves need to be donated.

“If we can get enough wreaths donated we will place those wreaths on the graves of veterans,” Imamura said.

Imamura and her husband toured King City Cemetery to discover the city had more than 400 final resting spots of veterans.

In addition to the increased awareness of veteran recognition, the anniversary of the Vietnam War meant local veterans were recognized for their particular service.

“Any veteran that showed up at this vehicle, and they served in the Vietnam War era, was given a special pin and a certificate and was thanked and appreciated after all these years,” Imamura said.

She explained the climate toward veterans after the Vietnam War was a much different time, when those who served would often be shamed into hiding their wartime efforts.

For more information about volunteering or donating, contact Imamura at 408-802-4437.

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Sean Roney is a freelance reporter for King City Rustler and Salinas Valley Tribune, a unified publication of Greenfield News, Soledad Bee and Gonzales Tribune. He covers general news for the Salinas Valley communities in South Monterey County.


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