America’s fallen heroes will be remembered during this year’s National Wreaths Across America Day. Here’s what you need to know about road closures, parking and volunteering.
- Q: What is Wreaths Across America?
Wreaths Across America is on a mission to remember our fallen veterans. What started at Arlington National Cemetery in 1992 as a personal tribute to the armed forces by Maine-based wreath maker Morrill Worcester would evolve into an annual, nationwide effort.
“The annual tribute went on quietly for several years, until 2005, when a photo of the stones at Arlington, adorned with wreaths and covered in snow, circulated around the internet,” the organization explains on its website. “Suddenly, the project received national attention.”
Each December, the nonprofit coordinates ceremonies in which volunteers lay wreaths at thousands of cemeteries across the country and abroad. This guide will focus on the volunteer event at Northern Virginia’s Arlington National Cemetery, but the organization’s website lists all participating cemeteries, volunteer groups and sponsorship options. Find one near you.
- Q: When and where is it happening?
The annual Wreaths Across America event will be held at Arlington National Cemetery on Saturday, Dec. 17. The Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home National Cemetery in Northwest D.C. will also be open for volunteers on the same day.
Arlington Cemetery will open to volunteers at 8 a.m. with access through the Memorial Avenue, Ord and Weitzel, and Service Complex gates. Since organizers are expecting a large number of people this year, they’ll be using a timed-entry ticketing system — meaning you’ll have to register for a specific gate and entry time. Read on to find out how.
Arrivals times are 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. as of writing, although more times may be added as demand requires.
“This is a meaningful holiday tradition to reflect on the service and sacrifice of those who served our nation,” ANC Superintendent Charles Alexander said in a news release. “We encourage all our visitors to plan ahead and visit our website and social media platforms for event updates to ensure a safe and seamless visit.”
ANC has a separate event exclusive to family pass holders on Sunday, Dec. 11. Family pass holders are those with an immediate next-of-kin interred at Arlington Cemetery and do not have to register in advance to lay a wreath. For more information on becoming a family pass holder, contact the cemetery directly.
- Q: How can I register? Does it cost anything?
If you’re going to this year’s National Wreaths Across America Day, you’ll need to register online. It’s free, and their ticketing system lets you choose between three access gate options — but remember that your ticket is only valid for the specific gate and time you opt for. Click here for a map of entry points.
- Q: How can I get there?
Driving in the area around Arlington National Cemetery can be a headache during Wreaths Across America, so we wouldn’t recommend getting there by car if you can avoid it.
While Arlington officials have yet to post road closures for Dec. 17, last year’s list included parts of Interstate 395, the George Washington Parkway and Va. Route 110/Richmond Highway.
ANC encourages visitors to use Metrorail. The closest stop is Arlington Cemetery station on Metro’s Blue Line, which offers direct access to the Memorial Avenue gate but will likely see the most congestion. The Ord and Weitzel gate is a 15-minute walk from Rosslyn station along North Meade Street, while the Service Complex entrance is a similar jaunt from the Pentagon’s transit center down North Rotary Road.
If you’re not familiar with D.C.’s Metro, we suggest buying your fare in advance through the SmarTrip app on a phone with mobile pay to avoid crowded stations. Metro will also be offering free shuttle buses from Rosslyn station to the Marine Corps memorial, and from the Pentagon to the Service Complex gate.
Still driving? There are a few options for parking, albeit limited — and you’ll likely be vying for them against a greater number of people than there are spaces.
General public parking is available nearby at the Pentagon, but again, it won’t be a lot. ANC’s Welcome Center parking garage will only be open to family pass holders and drivers with handicapped placards, but who will have to be directed there after an off-site pass check.
Ride-share services, such as Uber and Lyft, are also an option, but your driver will have to drop you off in Pentagon City, where you’ll be able to walk to the cemetery’s Service Complex gate.
- Q: What rules and security precautions should I be aware of?
Volunteers will be subject to a security check at their entry gate. ANC has a list of prohibited items, which includes weapons of any kind, flags larger than 8.5 inches by 11 inches, large bags or backpacks, coolers and soda cans. Clear plastic water bottles are permitted.
Each member of a party is asked to have their own registration. Visitors age 16 and up will also need to bring an original form of photo identification with them, such as a valid driver’s license or passport. Copies or cellphone photos of an ID card are not accepted.
Per Department of Defense guidelines on COVID-19, Arlington Cemetery ended its indoor masking requirement earlier this year.
- Q: Can I sponsor a wreath?
You sure can. Even if you can’t volunteer to lay a wreath in person, you can still sponsor one through the nonprofit’s homepage.
Wreaths can be sponsored for $15 each. You can sponsor as many as you’d like.
“Your sponsorship will ensure that a wreath is handcrafted of all-American balsam and hand-tied with a red velvet bow here in Columbia Falls, Maine,” Wreaths Across America explains. “It will then be sent to one of our participating locations, where a volunteer will place it on the marker of a fallen hero.”