Honoring veterans is an activity that holds important value year-round. Some days, however, are specifically for commemorating their efforts. National Wreaths Across America Day, which takes place on the third Saturday of December every year (Dec. 17 in 2022), is a time during which wreath-laying ceremonies are held at Arlington National Cemetery, as well as at nearly 3,400 other locations in the U.S., at sea, and abroad.

The history of Wreaths Across America Day

In 1992 at the Worcester Wreath Company, Karen and Morrill Worcester of Harrington, Maine realized they had 5,000 extra wreaths that had yet to find homes. The two had the idea to use them to honor veterans at Arlington National Cemetery and contacted their senator. In 2008, Congress unanimously passed legislation creating a day to perform this honor every year.

Initially, the service was local to Arlington, Texas but in 2011 the Wreaths Across America (WAA) organization broadened its scope to include 750 cemeteries and battlefields across the U.S., with thousands more to come.

The appearance of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.The appearance of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.

How to observe the day

Both living and fallen veterans are honored during Wreaths Across America Day. While there are many locations recognized by WAA, you can become a location coordinator for a new cemetery if none of these places work for you.

Here’s how to commemorate the day:

  • Sponsor or lay a wreath yourself. If you contact a WAA location coordinator, they can direct you to a location where a wreath-laying ceremony will take place. You can either sponsor a wreath or lay one yourself.
  • Sponsor a dog tag. If you prefer, you can choose to sponsor a dog tag with a veteran’s name printed on it. The WAA will create one for you and you can lay it on a gravestone.
  • Share your experience with social media. Spread the word about Wreaths Across America Day by sharing your feelings on your social platform of choice.

There are some facts to keep in mind this Wreaths Across America Day. Notably, each year carries a different theme — this year’s is “Be Their Witness.” Inspired by Iraq War veteran and Marine Michael Strobl, the concept is focused on remembering and telling the stories of veterans. Strobl’s tale is noteworthy because of his exemplary valor: After the war was over, he escorted the body of one of his comrades back to the Marine’s hometown in Wyoming.

Teach children the value of freedom

A core aspect of Wreaths Across America Day is educating and inspiring young people on what freedom is and why it’s vital. Both living and fallen generations of veterans served to protect your freedoms, and this must never be forgotten. This means honoring service members whenever you can and paying special attention to days of remembrance and recognition.

Not all fallen veterans are able to be found or identified. Yet, these soldiers deserve just as much attention as those who are known — and wreaths can be dedicated to them, as well. That’s why the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier exists at Arlington National Cemetery. This special place currently contains the remains of three unknown fallen service members who represent all unidentified soldiers.

Lay or sponsor a wreath or dog tag this Wreaths Across America Day

However you choose to commemorate Wreaths Across America Day, always remember why this day — as well as all days specifically made to honor veterans — exists: Because service members give their heart and soul — and sometimes their lives — into preserving freedom and the American way of life. There can be no freedom without sacrifice, and that’s why it’s vital to commemorate the tireless efforts of veterans, whom all serve with a singular purpose: to bring you liberty.