ARLINGTON, Va. — More than 44,000 volunteers turned out even in the icy, cold and rainy weather to carefully lay 245,000 remembrance wreaths at t Arlington National Cemetery on Saturday, as part of “Wreaths Across America.”
It was the 25th year that wreaths have been placed at Arlington National Cemetery. The theme for this year’s event was #SayTheirNames.
The wreaths are placed at grave sites nationwide to honor and remember fallen veterans and their service. After placing a wreath, volunteers are encouraged to take time to read the headstone, to honor the memory of that fallen hero and to say the veteran’s name out loud.
For Julie Hunter from Mt. Laurel, New Jersey, this has become an annual pilgrimage. The experience, for her, is a somber one.
“You see all kinds of people that come together from all different walks of life just being grateful for the service and the lives that were lost,” Hunter said.
This year was the first time that Wendy Nixon from North Carolina volunteered to place the wreaths. She lost her 21-year-old brother-in-law; he was killed in Iraq. She was awe-struck by the event at Arlington National Cemetery on Saturday.
“People come from all over just to do this,” she said. “No words can even describe, you know?”
And when the volunteers’ work was all done, the scene left behind is breathtaking: a sea of beautiful balsam wreaths with red bows at Christmastime.
In 1992, a wreath maker from Maine had 5,000 extra wreaths and decided to head to Arlington National Cemetery to honor fallen veterans. That was the beginning of what is now known as “Wreaths Across America.”
Amber Caron of the “Wreaths Across America” organization said Morrill Worcester brought 5,000 wreaths to Arlington without any fanfare for 13 years.
“It wasn’t until it got a little more attention that ‘Wreaths Across America’ was formed in 2007,” Caron said.
Saturday was known as National Wreaths Across America Day, with wreath-laying ceremonies at hundreds of veterans cemeteries and at various other locations in all 50 states.