FAIRMONT, W.Va. — The Christmas season may be over, but Marion County is still using the holiday season to honor serving and retired veterans.
On the second floor of the Marion County Courthouse, three Christmas trees stand, brightly lit and covered in handmade ornaments honoring those who have served our country.
It is a way of recognizing those who have escaped the community during the celebration of the holidays.
“Sometimes in the midst of honoring other people and doing charity work, we forget veterans and what they did and what they brought to America for us, so it becomes a time when we we can also recognize them,” said Reverend DD Meighen, and volunteer with the tradition.
The memorial was started by Kip Price, Judy Wilson and the Marion County Commission in 2016. The idea was started by Governor Tomblin’s Veterans Christmas Tree in 2015.
It has grown over the years from one Christmas tree to three, and now honors 206 veterans each with a personalized ornament.
“The community that was able to come out loved it and admired it,” Meighen said.
“My dad was a veteran and my brother was a veteran, and I do this in their memory,” said Maree Reynolds, a Veterans Tree Tradition volunteer.
Reynolds handcrafts ornaments for those who send in photos and compiles a book of everyone on the trees.
“The book is about 87 pages … which contains veterans along with their rank, name, branch of service they were in, wars they were in, and cities they came from,” Reynolds said.
She also makes a second set of ornaments for families to put on their personal trees.
“I do it because it’s a good thing to give back to our community because a lot of people don’t know that these trees even exist on the second floor,” she said.
It’s a group effort to keep the tradition alive, but one that’s important to those involved.
“As far as I know, this is the only county commission in the state of West Virginia that honors its veterans in this way…so we hope this inspires other agencies, counties that may not be doing be nothing at Christmas. maybe think of it as an incentive to honor their veterans.
Next to the trees is a video that scrolls through the photos and names of veterans that Meighen has collected.
“As long as we can do it, it will be done,” Meighen said. “If we need to add a fourth Christmas tree, we will do that as well.”
The three oldest veterans on the trees are Benjamin Portario, 100, Asa Davison, 98, and Paul McCue, 95.
The trees are on the second floor of the Marion County Courthouse Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The tentative last day for trees is Friday, January 7.