WASHINGTON— The placement of wreaths on the veterans’ gravestones in Arlington National Cemetery is an annual holiday tradition that stretches back nearly three decades.
Wreaths Across America, the volunteer organization spearheading the annual effort, is looking for help to honor those buried there.
National Wreaths Across America Day is Saturday, Dec. 15.
“We will be, on that day, placing wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery as well as over 1,620 other participating cemeteries. We’re in every state, including sending them to Alaska and Hawaii,” said Amber Caron with Wreaths across America.
All are welcome to participate in this free event and there’s no need to sign up ahead of time.
“This will be our 27th year going into Arlington National Cemetery. It started as a just gift from one man,” Caron told WTOP.
According to the Wreaths across America’s website, the tradition started in 1992 when Morrill Worcester, the owner of a Maine-based wreath company, noticed there were leftover wreaths from that holiday season.
Recalling a trip he took to Arlington National Cemetery as a boy, Worcester worked with a national lawmaker from his state to arrange for the extra wreaths to be placed at Arlington.
At first, the wreaths decorated graves in an older section of the cemetery that had been experiencing a declining rate of visitors.
Their work continued year after year, but gained national attention in 2005 when a photograph went viral that showed vibrant wreaths leaning against snow-covered headstones at Arlington.
Now, with less than one week to go before the annual event, they are still looking for donations.
“At Arlington National Cemetery, we are still in need of about 25,000 wreath sponsorships. So there’s over 400,000 people buried at Arlington, but this year, we’re going to place 253,000 veterans’ wreaths for every marker in the cemetery and one at each of the columbarium columns.”
Because Arlington is an active cemetery, the need for wreaths increases year after year, Caron said.
“So we’re close. We need about 25,000 more sponsorships in order for those wreaths to get placed and honor every veteran laid to rest there.”
To sponsor a wreath at $15 dollars apiece, go to the Wreaths Across America website.
To volunteer your time, just show up at Arlington National Cemetery on Saturday, Dec. 15 at 8 a.m.
Keep in mind that no personal vehicles will be allowed on cemetery grounds between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. that day. But Metro has a stop at Arlington National Cemetery, and the Rosslyn and Pentagon Metro stops are about a 15-minute walk to cemetery entry points.
The latest information about this year’s event, including information about available parking, can be found at Arlington National Cemetery’s website.