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Hampton girl makes sure vets have a Christmas wreath on their grave

Posted at 8:36 PM, Nov 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-11 20:36:46-05

HAMPTON, Va. - “My family goes back all the way to the Revolutionary War.”

The Yorktown National Cemetery is not a place you’d expect to find an 11-year-old girl, but that’s where we first met Cadence Smeltzer.

“My great-grandfather was serving in the Korean War, and his brother was a prisoner of war and a Purple Heart recipient.”

And her dad is active duty Air Force. Cadence beams with pride when she’s talking about her family.

Every year, she lays a wreath on the graves of her departed loved ones, but she noticed many of the veterans’ graves didn’t get the special holiday gift.

“Just imagine this is your ancestors here and everybody else is forgetting what they have done for this country.”

In an effort to make sure more veterans were honored, she started a fundraiser called Freedom’s Cadence on her mom’s Facebook page.

“Other people can see the heart that she has. It’s extremely touching from people across the country donating to a little girl on a mission.”

A mission to have 500 wreaths laid at the gravesites of the fallen veterans in Yorktown. She’s teamed up with Wreaths Across America. The nonprofit takes the money raised, makes the wreaths and delivers them on December 19.

Cadence is already up to 376 wreaths at $15 each.

We went to her Hampton home hoping to catch up with the young patriot. There, we surprised her with a News 3 People Taking Action award along with a $300 Visa gift card from our community partner, Southern Bank.

Related: People Taking Action: Local artist honors teacher who lost cancer battle

I asked Cadence about the secret to her success.

“My dad says it's because I’m doing so good at my videos that people think I’m actually doing a really good job," she told us.

And I think if the other veterans in her family could see what she’s doing to honor them and other heroes - past and present - they’d be very proud.

To nominate someone for a People Taking Action Award, click here.