Wednesday, December 1st, 2010
By Margie Wuebker
Not forgotten at Christmastime
  ST. SEBASTIAN - The Christmas spirit will be shared with fallen veterans this weekend thanks to a colorful project undertaken by Maria Stein American Legion Auxiliary Unit 571.
Auxiliary President Rosie McClurg remembers leafing through a magazine a year ago and seeing a story about a project called Wreaths Across America. The idea of remembering deceased veterans during the holidays was appealing, but she knew purchasing more than 150 wreaths would be cost prohibitive.
"I took the idea to my friend Irene Bruns and she suggested using red bows instead," McClurg said. "Things just took off from there with members approving our plans."
McClurg's daughter, Angie Barlage of Russia, heard about the project and volunteered to make all the bows. Ed McClurg, a Vietnam War veteran, jumped on the bandwagon by cutting wooden dowel rods to the proper length. He also created a bracket to hold each rod as his wife attached the finished bows.
Some 152 bows will be placed at five cemeteries in the Marion cluster of churches - Maria Stein, Chickasaw, St. Sebastian, Cassella and St. Rose.
"The Legion has markers at each veteran's gravesite to hold flags from May through September," Rosie McClurg said. "Those markers will now hold a holiday remembrance and bring a touch of color to the winter season."
In past years, the auxiliary has sent coupons for food and personal care products to military bases throughout the world during the holiday season. Also, the 53 members have agreed to forego their annual Christmas gift exchange and donate the money they would have spent on a gift to purchase warm socks for hospitalized veterans.
"We decided the time had come to remember veterans no longer with us," Rosie McClurg said. "The ribbon didn't really cost anymore than postage for shipping all those coupons."
The president, whose term ends next summer, hopes holiday ribbons will become an annual project like other auxiliary endeavors - hosting a bloodmobile in January, a garage sale in March and a baby-sitting clinic in April. The group also sponsors Buckeye Girls State delegates and alternates, an Apples for Education promotion and a food booth at the Maria Stein Country Fest. In addition, the drill team members attend a variety of special events ranging from Peace Masses to Veterans Day observances.
Looking over boxes of completed bows that resemble banks of poinsettias, she chuckled about her husband's offer to discard the bracket he made now that the project is completed.
"I told him no way," she added. "I would love to see this project continue because the men and women who served our country in war and in peace deserve recognition during the holiday season, even if they aren't here to enjoy it."

Fallen veterans:
  The Maria Stein American Legion Auxiliary Unit 571 wants to honor deceased members of the Post buried elsewhere. Arrangements can be made by calling Rosie McClurg at 419-925-4757.
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