November 2014, I learned about Wreaths Across America through a Facebook post on my hometown’s community page. The post started because of a local individual’s visit to Arlington National Cemetery in 2013 during the laying of wreaths on soldiers’ graves, and she and her family wanted to bring the tradition to Connersville, IN.
National Wreaths Across America Day has a simple mission: “Remember fallen U.S. veterans; honor those who serve; and teach your children the value of freedom.” This important day is an annual event that takes place every third Saturday in December at Arlington National Cemetery, as well as other cemeteries in the U.S., at sea, and abroad. Wreaths are laid as family and friends remember both those who made the ultimate sacrifice, and those who currently serve in the armed forces.
After reading more about WAA and confirming our local cemetery was participating in conjunction with Arlington National Cemetery ceremony, I couldn’t help but be moved to participate. The cost of a wreath was fifteen dollars and we had seven veterans to purchase wreaths for. I bought the wreaths and informed my cousins on our family Facebook page of the date and time if they would like to participate. Much to my surprise many of my cousins showed up despite the weather conditions on a cold December Saturday.
We participated in the Arlington ceremony as best we could (technology was sketchy, but the volunteers who were leading this project were amazing). There were representatives from all the branches of service who laid a wreath at the WWII tomb in Dale Cemetery, as well as the Color Guard and local Corpsman who played taps. Once the formal ceremony was completed, our family made the trip through the cemetery to each of our veterans’ graves.
We agreed that this is something we wanted to continue to do as a family, and I volunteered to make the arrangements. I also became more involved with the project at the local level helping with order confirmations and tracking of where graves were located. People from the community would order wreaths for their deceased veterans but weren’t always able to make the trip to Dale Cemetery to place the wreath on their loved one’s grave. Volunteers were glad to help with this, but locating graves wasn’t always easy.
Not being in the military I never fully understood the “brotherhood”, but I have a better understanding after participating in 2016 during an ice storm. Our family showed up not knowing if anyone would be there, and what we found were several veterans groups ready to do the work as well as the local FFA Chapter. No wreath was left unplaced.
Our local cemetery no longer has a group that sponsors the cemetery. Our family continues the tradition each year, the number of wreaths increase, and many of us have moved from our hometown, but we keep the third Saturday in December open to go home for this unique opportunity to honor our veterans.