A volunteer places wreaths at the Columbarium in Arlington National Cemetery. Picture via the Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for Public Affairs/CreativeCommons
“When we lay wreaths on veterans graves, we say their names.” So could you be one of thousands of Americans who pays personal tribute to a hero they never met, who gave their life to the nation?
Volunteers are being sought to lay wreaths on the graves of those who served and lie at rest at Arlington National Cemetery as well as over 1,000 additional locations in all 50 U.S. states, at sea, and abroad, on December 16.
The special date is Wreaths Across America Day, an occasion to remember, give thanks and to think about the life of someone who gave their own for us.
“We're here to remember not their deaths, but their lives” says Karen Worcester, executive director of the charity Wreaths Across America, which aims for every hero to be honoured and remembered in this special way at Christmas time.
The charity say that some volunteers may get to lay their wreath at the grave of a person that has not had a visitor in years. It hopes that in carrying out this gesture of remembrance and thanks, people will take time to read the headstone and think about the person who grew from a babe in arms to a hero who gave their life.
If there’s a cemetery near you where national heroes lie at rest, you can also register to locate your local cemetery on the Wreaths Across America location coordinator.
Volunteers can simply turn up at Arlington’s Eisenhower gate on the morning of December 16, to lay a wreath. Across the nation and at military cemeteries and veterans graves around the world, trucks of live balsam wreaths will be dispatched.
Volunteers laying Wreaths Across America at Arlington National Cemetery. Picture by U.S. Army Sgt. James K. McCann via Flickr/CreativeCommons
The wreaths are sponsored by families, businesses and community fundraising groups, with many trucking companies among the organizations giving their time to ensure the wreaths get to their destinations.
The theme of remembrance for 2017 this year is I’m an American, yes I am and supporters can also voice their support on social media with the hashtag #SayTheirNames.
Families are encouraged to come together, to lay a wreath and think about a person and their life’s legacy. Although you don’t have to sign up to take part, there are Facebook groups that you can join to become part of a community of supporters. Community group Washington DC History and Culture is also rallying volunteers to take part. It is organizing four meet-up times and locations for people to join, throughout the day.
Facebook community member Rich Cooper explains why paying tribute is important to him on Wreaths Across America Day. He and his family have taken part since 2011 and he says for them, it’s become an important holiday:
“Every stone marker tells a story and they are names and lives I want my children to know, honor and respect,” he says.
“I want them to understand that the American experiment in which they are part, is forever fragile and how for generations people of every creed, color, country and religion stepped forward to risk their lives, limbs and for some even their own liberty to pass those fruits to them and their peers.”
This wreath was laid on the grave of a World War I veteran. Picture by Monica McCoy/US Navy via commons.wikimedia.org
The funerals of between 27 and 30 military veterans and servicemen and women killed in action take place at Arlington National Cemetery every day. Throughout the year, The Arlington Ladies bear witness to ensure that no soldier, sailor, airman or coast guardsman goes to their grave, without someone to stand by and think of them. Will you lay a wreath and say someone's name, this Christmas?