The coronavirus pandemic kept volunteers from taking part in Wreaths Across America Day at Arlington National Cemetery, but a virtual ceremony Saturday gave a behind the scenes look at the event.
Only family pass holders could place wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery this year in an event that usually brings thousands of volunteers to the cemetery to honor fallen U.S. veterans.
“We’re excited to give everybody watching this an opportunity to honor, remember and explore our nation’s most hallowed grounds during this important annual event,” said Ray Alexander, superintendent of Arlington National Cemetery.
“Thank you to the many who insured there was a wreath for every gravesite,” Alexander said.
Around 265,000 wreaths were laid at the cemetery in total, and were delivered by 45 trucks throughout the week leading up to Wreaths Across America Day on Saturday.
Additionally, Wreaths Across America helped put wreaths at 2,100 additional locations in all 50 U.S. states, at sea and abroad.
The virtual event showed family and military members laying wreaths and featured the stories of some of those who work at the cemetery.
“I have many family members that are prior military involved and currently in the military so it was just an overall honor to be able to be a part of this team,” said Gerrell Whitlock, a member of the Arlington National Cemetery facility maintenance team.
The event is usually a one-day event at Arlington National Cemetery, but this year, because of coronavirus precautions, it took place over more than a week while the cemetery held 100 funerals.
“Where it’s usually executed over a weekend with no services going on, this week it was executed over eight days and so that made it a bit more challenging logistically,” said Maj. Jeremy Tilley, Arlington National Cemetery Deputy Operations Officer.