When David Andryshak retired as a sergeant in the Village of Goshen Police Department after 23 years, he began working at Orange County Veterans Cemetery in Goshen in 2007 as a gravedigger.
In 2015 he was promoted to cemetery superintendent.
This year the COVID-19 pandemic cancelled the Wreaths Across America Program, which calls for the placing of a wreath of all veterans across the nation.
But rather than be stymied, Andryshak and others at the Orange County Veterans Cemetery found a safe way to honor the veterans.
“When Wreaths Across American was canceled for this year due to the pandemic, Orange County Christmas Trees of Heroes 2020 was born and filled the gap to remember, honor and teach the sacrifices veterans made by placing ornaments on trees at the cemetery,” Andryshak wrote in an email exchange with The Chronicle. “We also treasure the friendship with our veterans families who visit often, if not daily.
Several thousand ornaments
“We placed six large, beautiful pine trees around our main monument area,” he added. “We began with several thousand wreath picture frame tree ornaments. The idea was to get these ornaments out to our veterans families so they could place a picture inside of them and then place them on one of these six trees as they visited.”
Each of the trees is wrapped with 1,000 white lights, Andryshak said. The hedge behind the trees is draped in red, white and blue. An alley dividing the trees has seven ceremonial wreaths on display, one for each branch of service along with a special wreath for POWs.
“The trees are now adorned with hundreds of photographs of veterans along with messages written by children thanking vets for their service,” the cemetery superintendent said. “Each one of the solar-lit flag poles also displays a wreath.”
The ornaments for the cemetery were purchased by the Nam Knights motorcycle group.
The program is opened to families of all deceased Orange County veterans, not just those buried at the county veterans cemetery.
A limited number of ornaments remain, and can be obtained at the Veterans Service office at the cemetery, which is open Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The cemetery grounds are open every day for visiting. Entry and exit could be delayed to accommodate funeral services.
The Orange County Veterans Cemetery opened in June 2000. Now, 20 years later, it is the final resting home to more than 3,000 Orange County veterans. The cemetery hosts more than 230 interments each year and is the busiest cemetery in Orange County.