ARLINGTON, Va. — The weather was chilly but that didn’t stop huge crowds from heading to Arlington National Cemetery to help out with the annual wreath laying Saturday.
Traffic was jammed and sidewalks were packed with long lines of volunteers.
“All these people are honoring the men and women who make their constitutional rights possible,” said Alecia Walters, an Army veteran. “In memory of all who made the ultimate sacrifice, I needed to come here to put that wreath down.”
Volunteers placed more than 245,000 wreaths at grave sites.
It is part of a nationwide effort by the nonprofit Wreaths Across America, which also places wreaths at more than 1,500 other cemeteries across the country.
“We waited in line for a long time and it was cold — but worth it,” said volunteer Gordon McKinley. “Some people are looking for individual graves and other people are just there doing their duty and honoring those who’ve served.”
Volunteer Brad Chatlos added, “It seems like there’s a lot of patriotism in the air.”
The annual event, now in its 26th year, honors those who served in the United States Armed Forces, many of whom paid the ultimate sacrifice while fighting.
“There are 25 funerals at the Arlington National Cemetery every day, so the need grows every year,” said Bree Kingsbury with Wreaths Across America. “That one wreath is really a symbol of honor and respect for each fallen service member.”
When a wreath is laid down, the name of the person on each grave site is read out loud. By doing that, Kingsbury said, volunteers can help keep the memory of that veteran alive.
“We were really looking for a tangible way to be able to honor their service, and to really show their families that they haven’t been forgotten,” Kingsbury said.
Donations from individuals and corporations have helped the wreath laying take place every year.