During the holiday season, families around the U.S. remember loved ones serving on active duty as well as those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. National Wreaths Across America Day gives communities around the nation the opportunity to gather in fellowship in remembrance of our fallen heroes.
Wreaths Across America
Through the nonprofit organization Wreaths Across America (WAA), volunteers and community members gather together to lay holiday wreaths on the graves of U.S. veterans. This nationwide event is part of WAA's mission to remember fallen veterans, honor those who serve in the armed forces and teach the next generation about the value and price of freedom.
The commemorative day has taken place on the second or third Saturday of December since 1992. Following a week-long escort down the East Coast, National Wreaths Across America Day is being recognized on Dec. 14, 2019 this year.
The escort, which began in Maine on Dec. 7, will pass through Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Washington D.C. before concluding at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia on Dec. 14. Led by Mona Gunn, the national president of American Gold Star Mothers, the escort will host ceremonies and dinners at local schools, civic spaces and religious institutions along the way, as well as at war memorials in the nation's capital.
As wreaths are laid in Arlington, concurrent ceremonies will occur at more than 1,600 locations throughout all 50 states and overseas. Nearly 1.8 million wreaths were placed on veterans' headstones in 2018. The organization anticipates a similar impact this year.
'Everyone plays a part'
The theme for the 2019 Wreaths Across America Day is "Everyone plays a part." This theme was chosen by Miles Worcester, the 10-year-old grandson of the organization's founder, who observed that "those serving in the military are doing their part, but it is our part as Americans to remember and honor them, and that's what Wreaths Across America does."
As such, there are many ways to participate in National Wreaths Across America Day. Beyond attending an event along the escort route, members of the public may also attend wreath-laying ceremonies at cemeteries throughout the U.S. During these ceremonies, volunteers place wreaths on the markers of our fallen heroes, speaking each veteran's name to remember and honor their legacy of service and sacrifice.
WAA relies on volunteers to place wreaths, coordinate ceremonies at new locations, lead fundraising efforts, offer corporate sponsorship and donate trucking services to transport the wreaths. Individuals may also sponsor one or more wreaths or a specific cemetery. Those interested in becoming location coordinators, wreath-layers or sponsors can express interest through a volunteer form on Wreaths Across America's website.
In Columbia Falls, Maine, balsam tree boughs are harvested to make the wreaths that grace veterans' graves. Through WAA's free Remembrance Tree Program, the nonprofit produces customized dog tags for families to display on a specific evergreen. These Remembrance Trees become living memorials honoring those who are no longer with us.
Karen Worcester, Miles' grandmother and WAA's Executive Director, has explained that this is a more permanent way to uphold the organization's mission.
"This endless forest is a truly visual representation of our unwavering commitment to our mission to Remember, Honor and Teach and to recognize our veterans and families this year and for many years to come," Worcester said.