Thursday, April 18, 2024

Meet Cadence, the 11-year-old not letting veterans’ graves in Yorktown be wreathless. You can help her

Candace Smeltzer putting a wreath on a headstone at the Yorktown National Cemetery in 2019. (WYDaily/Courtesy of Vanessa Smeltzer)
Cadence Smeltzer putting a wreath on a headstone at the Yorktown National Cemetery in 2019. (WYDaily/Courtesy of Vanessa Smeltzer)

One can perhaps describe Cadence Smeltzer as dedicated and passionate.


She’s an 11-year-old who is concerned with making sure there are enough wreaths to place on the graves of veterans at the Yorktown National Cemetery this Christmas.

Honoring veterans has always been near and dear to Cadence’s heart — her father, James Smeltzer, is active duty Air Force assigned at Joint Base Langley Eustis working on the fighter jets.

So you can say it started at home for this girl, who gets emotional about the thought of people forgetting her dad years down the road.

“My dad is in the military and just thinking about everyone else forgetting about him is sad,” Cadence said.

That love somehow fueled her mission.

“For a mom, to see, just at 11 the amount of the impact she’s making and just knowing it’s gonna keep spreading is amazing, and I have no doubt that cemetery is going to be filled,” her mother, Vanessa Smeltzer, said.

Cadence attends the wreath laying ceremony at Yorktown National Cemetery each December and helps place the wreaths on the graves of veterans.

She’s been doing that for several years now and she said she gets devastated to see that many graves go without a wreath. There is usually about 200-400 graves that go without a wreath, her mother said.

This year she created her own fundraising group, Freedom’s Cadence, in partnership with Wreaths Across America.

“For every two wreaths that get sponsored, Wreaths Across America will provide an addition wreath at no extra cost, which was perfect for Cadence’s mission of trying to fill the cemetery,” Vanessa said.

Last year she got just 57 wreaths and walked around to all the graves without one and apologized because she did not do enough, her mother said.

“As a mom that breaks your heart,” Vanessa said regarding her daughter being down on herself about not doing enough last year.

Cadence’s original goal this year was to get 150 wreaths donated — her mother said they are now up to 377 wreaths. The cemetery needs about 800 more and Cadence only has until Nov. 30.

“I feel really excited. I’m past excited, so there is no way for me to express how happy I am. I am thankful for everybody sponsoring wreaths for our veterans,” Cadence said.

Vanessa has no doubt there will be a wreath on every grave at the cemetery for Christmas because of her daughter’s passion and determination.

Here’s a video of Cadence’s plea.

And here’s the deal: To make the biggest impact and get the buy two, get one wreath deal, donations have to be made here.

Freedom’s Cadence will be helping Yorktown National Cemetery remember and honor veterans by laying remembrance wreaths on the graves of veterans on Dec. 19 at noon.


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