WASHINGTON – Thousands of red-bowed wreaths will decorate Veterans’ graves and memorials across the country on Saturday, Dec. 11, when volunteers place them at 131 Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) national cemeteries, state Veterans cemeteries, and at Arlington National Cemetery and memorial sites.
“This is one of the most beautiful events repeated across the country as thousands of volunteers honor our Nation’s heroes,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “It is inspiring to see the volunteers show their respect and gratitude for the Veterans who served our Nation.”
Last year approximately 161,000 wreaths and more than 100,000 volunteers participated in activities. This marks the fifth year of the nationwide event.
Most of the wreaths are donated by individuals, groups and businesses that purchase them through the Wreaths Across America (WAA) program, created and run by the Worcester Wreath Company of Harrington, Maine, which is donating at least seven wreaths to every VA national cemetery – representing the branches of the military services. Civil Air Patrol units are arranging brief ceremonies at many locations.
The company began donating leftover wreaths to Arlington National Cemetery in 1992 and in 2006 began the WAA program, supplying some wreaths to all VA national cemeteries and many state Veterans cemeteries. The WAA Web site has been used by hundreds of people to “sponsor” wreath placement. Other people have purchased wreaths locally and place them at gravesites themselves.
The ceremonies and wreaths at VA national cemeteries have increased every year and each family organizes its own wreath laying program.
This year, the Houston National Cemetery expects the largest number of donated wreaths – 28,000 – and the largest crowd of volunteers to place them – approximately 13,000 people. No large organizations are involved; all donations have come from small businesses, a women’s memorial group, local Boy Scout troops, school children and many family members of those interred at the cemetery.
The Sacramento Valley National Cemetery in Dixon, Calif., expects approximately 1,500 people, including local elected officials, to place approximately 6,000 wreaths. More than half of them were purchased from the WAA Web site by 15 organizations. Another group, Friends of the National Cemetery, raised funds to purchase wreaths locally to ensure 100 percent coverage of graves.
For Hampton National Cemetery in Virginia, a church has been the main donor of artificial wreaths for five years, and 6,000 wreaths will be provided this year. Local military installations have also promised to contribute wreaths. Military youth groups and veterans group members will unload them from trucks and place them at the headstones.
For more information about Wreaths Across America, visit its Web site, http://www.wreathsacrossamerica.org/.