Over the past few years, I have regularly participated in Wreaths Across America. On this day, hundreds of volunteers go to thousands of military cemeteries to place wreaths decorated with bright red bows on the graves of those who have fallen in combat or passed away in peacetime.
What Is the History of Wreaths Across America?
Morrill Worcester, the owner of a wreath company in Harrington, Maine, originally founded Wreaths Across America. He had a surplus of 5,000 wreaths and “saw the surplus as an opportunity to pay tribute to our country’s veterans,” according to PR Newswire.
Worcester created this event with three major themes in mind:
- To remember fallen U.S. veterans
- To honor those who serve
- To teach children the value of freedom
Who Comes to Participate in Wreaths Across America?
Just like the diversity found throughout the military, people from all walks of life choose to participate in Wreaths Across America. It’s one of those events that seem to cut across different cultural and ethnic barriers.
While waiting for the event to begin at Arlington National Cemetery, there’s time to gaze around and people-watch. I’ve seen young children, teenagers and older adults take part in this event. Servicemembers from different branches of the military show up to help, and so do people from locally-based organizations such as the Boy Scouts and the Bundeswehr (a military administration from Germany).
What Motivates People to Come to This Event?
Most people at this event choose to come because they have a deep respect for the military; some people over the years have told me that they drive from faraway states just to participate in this event. Coming to Wreaths Across America is a practical way of showing their respect.
Others have a more personal reason for being there. Some participants have lost a friend from their military unit or relative in combat, and seeing those people salute the grave marker with tears in their eyes is a highly moving sight.
Still others have family members who passed away in previous wars. I’ve also witnessed senior citizens talking with their grandchildren about who is buried at a particular grave and using it as a teaching opportunity for those kids.
I go to Wreaths Across America to pay tribute to all branches of the military, who work so hard and give up so much of their precious time to keep the rest of us safe. I also attend as a mark of respect for my relatives and family friends who are buried there and to show solidarity with the members of the University community who come to this event.
If you would like an opportunity to help the University community pay tribute to the military during Wreaths Across America on Saturday, December 17, please consider signing up for this event. If you are unable to attend, you can also sponsor a wreath to help us reach our goal of providing 500 wreaths.