Volunteers storm Arlington Cemetery

Kathy Stewart, wtop.com

ARLINGTON, Va. – More than 20,000 volunteers caused traffic tie-ups Saturday morning during their annual pilgrimage to Arlington National Cemetery.

The throngs of volunteers descended on our nation’s most hallowed ground for a massive wreath-laying ceremony. They were there to remember, honor and teach as they placed more than 110,000 remembrance wreaths on the graves.

This is the 20th year for the Wreaths Across America event.

Mark McLean, with Wreaths Across America, was overseeing the unloading of one of the 34 tractor-trailers full of wreaths.

“On behalf of Wreaths Across America I want to welcome you and thank you for your willingness to honor and remember our nation’s fallen heroes,” McLean tells volunteers.

He says this annual holiday event started when the owner of a wreath company in Maine had 5,000 extra wreaths and decided to place them at the headstones in Arlington as a way to honor and remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Morrill Worcester, owner of the Worcester Wreath Company in Maine, knew he owed his success in business to those who protect our nation.

Before unloading the wreaths, McLean stood in the back of the tractor-trailer with its doors open giving instructions to the volunteers. “So please just put the wreaths at a 45-degree angle and press them so they don’t fall over and make sure the ribbon is at the top.”

This was the first time Lynne Morrison of Fairfax was able to take part in the ceremony. Morrison, an Air Force senior master sergeant, was taken back by the sheer number of volunteers that turned out.

“I’m amazed. I have no words,” she says.

Missy Williams, of Vermont, traveled to the cemetery with a friend from Vienna.

“It’s incredibly overwhelming. It’s incredibly emotional. I found myself tearing up when the trucks came in this morning. I’m honored to be a part of it,” she says.

Williams stopped at the headstone of a Vietnam vet to place wreath. She says she wanted to honor the vet because she had two uncles in that war.

“I’m putting wreaths on gravestones of soldiers who’ve passed away to honor them this Christmas season,” says Cub Scout Liam Perella, with Pack 481 out of Waldorf.

McLean says this holiday tradition has a mission: to teach younger generations the importance of remembering and honoring our fallen and to learn about the value our freedom.

“They need to learn the price of freedom,” he says of Scouts like Liam.

Nationwide, 407,000 wreaths were placed at more than 800 locations Saturday.

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