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René and Johanne Beaulieu laid a wreath in front of their niece’s headstone. She served in Afghanistan, and was in her 50s when she died in an accident in Jasper, Alta.Janice Dickson /The Globe and Mail

With wreaths wrapped around their arms, volunteers and veterans walked through snowy rows of graves in the National Military Cemetery at Beechwood Cemetery in Ottawa, gently laying the handmade decorations in front of the headstones of men and women who served in the Canadian Armed Forces.

It was a moving afternoon that almost didn’t happen. Last week, 3,000 wreaths were stolen from a property where they were being stored. Volunteers worked to ensure the wreath-laying ceremony, which had been organized by a charity called Wreaths Across Canada, could go ahead. They remade thousands of wreaths and put the final touches on 2,000 of them Sunday morning.

Nick McCarthy, the vice president of Wreaths Across Canada and director of marketing for Beechwood Cemetery, said his organization learned last Monday that the wreaths had been stolen.

“I think what people don’t realize is the military community is all about service. It’s all about giving oneself to something greater. And I think that’s what it really was like,” he said of the volunteer effort to replenish the supply.

“You have so many amazing people who wanted to see this event come back. It’s the first time since 2017 that we’re holding this event.”

Wreaths Across Canada was founded by Craig McPhee, a retired warrant officer of the Royal Canadian Air Force, to provide holiday ceremonies for those who served with the CAF. According to the organization’s website, Mr. McPhee was inspired to start the organization after visiting the Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. He was struck by the thousands of wreaths on headstones and wanted to do the same for men and women buried in Canadian military cemeteries.

A person places a poppy after laying wreaths on headstones with Wreaths Across Canada at the National Military Cemetery of Canada in Ottawa, on Dec. 5.Justin Tang/The Canadian Press

Cyndi Mills, the organization’s president, told the veterans at the ceremony that “it’s been a bit of a crazy week, but we managed to dress and trim 4,100 wreaths.” Volunteers sang as they worked, she said.

The event, she said, is meant to bring people together during the holiday season and “say thank you to our families, to our military members who have left us, and to gather.”

As veterans and volunteers spread out through the grounds, laying the wreaths at each stone, some said they were giving thanks to those who served, while others were visiting the graves of people they served with, or family members.

Terry Hunter, 61, is still serving after 47 years in uniform. Currently a training development officer, he previously served in different locations across Canada and has done two tours overseas, one in Sudan and another in Ukraine.

“It’s a privilege for me to be able to lay wreaths on the graves of veterans who have served this country, and it’s a way to acknowledge the sacrifices that they’ve had, and also the sacrifices their families have made over the years,” he said.

Mr. Hunter said it was a disappointment to hear that wreaths had been stolen. He added that Wreaths Across Canada is a worthy initiative and that it would be nice if other communities across the country followed its lead and acknowledged veterans at Christmas time.

Kathy Luten said she has a relative buried in the cemetery. She and her husband Trevor, who served 34 years in the military, will also be buried there, she added.

“It’s very moving to be able to celebrate at Christmas season by celebrating their sacrifice and their service,” she said.

Ms. Luten said she and her eldest grandson helped make wreaths on Friday, and that untangling the grape vines was fun, but not easy.

“We were joking and laughing, having a good time, doing something worthwhile.”

René and Johanne Beaulieu laid a wreath in front of their niece’s headstone. She served in Afghanistan, and was in her 50s when she died in an accident in Jasper, Alberta.

“She was near retirement and she didn’t have a chance to benefit from it and enjoy it,” Mr. Beaulieu said.

The couple were also there to pay respect to lost comrades, Mr. Beaulieu said. He and his wife are both veterans themselves. “We served, so it’s a mark of respect to remember them.”

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