Nearly 3,000 wreaths destined for the national military cemetery stolen

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“Although there are good people, there are bad people.”

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Nearly 3,000 hand-made grapevine wreaths to put on veterans’ headstones at the Ottawa National Military Cemetery this holiday season have been stolen from a property in Maxville.

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“I was just stunned,” said Cyndi Mills, President of Wreaths Across Canada, of the theft that took place Saturday night or Sunday morning in tents on Robert and Jodie Tessier’s property.

“Who takes 3000 crowns?” Said Mills, editor of Canadian Military Family Magazine. ” Who do this ? “

Robert, or “Bob” for many, a 32-year-old artist and interior designer, said the wreath project meant a lot to his family, as his father and grandfather both served in the military.

Volunteers helped harvest wild vines from volunteer landowners in the area, then assembled the wreaths in the driveway of a rural property the Tessiers own just outside of Maxville, a community southeast of ‘Ottawa.

Vines are actually a problem in the area, explained Bob, as they can suffocate fields and trees, as well as providing food for local birds and other small animals. Cutting off the newer parts of the plant – best for making wreaths – is something landowners in the area appreciate, Bob said, with the vines also acting as a durable material for hand-made wreaths, plastic and metal free.

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“Sadly, for the past three months we’ve been walking around telling everyone in town with pride what we’re doing,” said Bob. They circulated a call for volunteers in the tight-knit community, so it was not uncommon for strangers to show up at the property, while Bob brought others on himself to try and find additional helping hands. .

Why would anyone steal the wreaths, which weren’t even dressed in pine cones, spruce sprigs, and winter holly berries yet?

“My honest answer is, unfortunately, it’s Christmas time,” said Bob, explaining that buying even the cheapest version of what they produce online would cost around $ 8 a crown. Even if the thief sold the stolen goods for $ 5 each, that would be a salary of $ 15,000.

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“While there are good people, there are bad people,” Bob said. “And, unfortunately, this is a scenario where we were exploited in such a distinct way that the worst part is that they have to know what we were doing and why we were doing it and still chose to do it. . “

The theft jeopardizes Wreaths Across Canada’s goal of covering the National Military Cemetery with 6,000 crowns next weekend. The volunteers had gathered around 5,000, said Bob, and ended up with less than 1,800. However, organizers are still determined to continue their ceremony at the cemetery on Sunday afternoon.

The group is calling on thieves to return the wreaths by Thursday so they can be delivered to Beechwood Cemetery and decorated.

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“Give us back what we’ve worked so hard on. And you know… Personally, I’ll look away, ”said Bob. “And that’s what I’ve heard from our team and from Wreaths Across Canada… People make mistakes and bad decisions and right now it’s not about this person who made them. These are the graves that will no longer receive a wreath on Sunday. “

Wreaths Across Canada is also looking for volunteers to help finish wreaths at the Maxville property or to trim them in Beechwood.

Police are seeking advice on the theft, Const. Serge Duguay of the OPP Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry Detachment.

Anyone with information, including seeing vehicles in the area or wreaths for sale, is asked to call the OPP at 1-888-310-1122 or contact Seaway Valley Crime Stoppers at 1- 800-222-8477 or seawayvalleycrimestoppers.ca

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With the support of individual donors and corporate sponsors, Wreaths Across Canada aims to provide a free event for military families to honor service and sacrifice with meaningful service as the holiday season approaches.

The non-profit organization was established in 2007 by Craig McPhee, a Canadian Forces veteran who was moved to see wreaths placed on military graves by the Wreaths Across America group when he visited the National Cemetery of ‘Arlington in Washington DC.

While conceding that “this flight has cooled our spirits,” Mills said the group will continue, with the goal of connecting current, retired and past members of the Canadian Armed Forces and their families with Canadians.

“We want our crowns back,” Mills said. “Just bring them back, drop them off somewhere, by phone or email, and tell us where they are and we’ll come and get them. “

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