Photo Credit: Flickr user Joseph Gruber
This year marks the 150th Anniversary of Arlington National Cemetery, and Wreaths Across America plans to honor the heroes interred there in a big way. For the 23rd year, volunteers will return to lay veterans wreaths at Arlington’s gravesites. “Nationally, we estimate a total of 725,000 wreaths will be placed on graves across the country on National Wreaths Across America Day,” Executive Director Karen Worcester said. That day is Saturday, December 13. “Each and every wreath is a gift from an appreciative person or family who knows what it means to serve and sacrifice for freedoms we all enjoy.”
The mission of Wreaths Across America is to remember those who served. “Many families know the pain of being without loved ones during the holiday season. The wreath laying is the least we can do; every stone represents a story, a family and a deserving veteran.” The headstones that mark the memorials are more than just blocks of cement, marble or granite. “These veterans’ wreaths are a symbol of honor, respect and victory,” Worcester said.
Founded in 2007 by Morrill Worcester, Wreaths Across America (WAA) is an extension of a family tradition. Since 1992, the Worcester family has been taking wreaths to Arlington, but in 2005, a picture taken of the wreaths against the stone in a light snow went viral. A grassroots interest took over, ultimately propelling the family’s tradition into a registered charitable organization. “As the movement grew, we listened to the families of the fallen and the veterans from across conflicts and we gained an understanding of how important it is to introduce our children, and even ourselves, to the character of those buried on these hallowed grounds,” said Worcester. In 2012, WAA laid its one-millionth wreath at Arlington and is on track lay its two-millionth wreath this winter. “With so much wrong in the world, this chain of what is good and right is very healing. It is incredible to look back to a dozen people and a truck in 1992 and then look forward to this year when we hope to place more than 750,000 wreaths in more than 1,000 locations.”
But reaching such high goals takes time and donations. “One of the biggest misconceptions is that we receive a government subsidy for the wreaths, but we do not.” She’s counting on fellow Americans to step up and make small donations, so there will be fewer stones without wreaths this year.
So, as many families across America string lights for the holiday season, Worcester and other WAA volunteers will be laying wreaths for the gravesites. “At many homes, there is an empty seat at the table for one who is serving, or who has made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. We honor our veterans every day and we think there is no better time to express our appreciation than during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.”
Wreath sponsorship is $15 and can be purchased at wreathsacrossamerica.org. Wreaths Across America Radio, a 24/7 internet-based radio stream, is also available on your desktop or mobile devices at WAARadio.org.