On Monday, Nov. 16, it looked like Wreaths Across America, a non-profit organization dedicated to honoring fallen service members during the holidays, would have to cancel its annual tradition of laying wreaths at the graves of service members at Arlington National Cemetery due to COVID-19. Now, thanks to collaboration between the organization and administration officials, that decision has been reversed, and the National Rifle Association is looking for sponsors to aid in donating 10,000 wreaths for the cause. You can join the effort here.
“Wreaths Across America has had a collaborative, good relationship with Arlington National Cemetery since my husband first laid wreaths there 29 years ago," Said Karen Worcester, Wreaths Across America executive director. "After learning of Arlington’s decision Monday night to cancel the event, the team jumped into action to help clarify misinformation being shared online and discuss other options we could bring to Arlington National Cemetery’s leadership in an effort to determine how we can work together to find a safe solution to continue this important tradition. I was very pleased that once we were able to have these discussions with the Cemetery’s leadership team. They expressed their commitment to the mission and willingness to work with us to develop other options to allow for the safe placement of veterans’ wreaths this December.
Last year, NRA staffers joined more than 38,000 volunteers to lay wreaths at Arlington. Those honored at the national cemetery included Major General Merritt Austin Edson, Sr. USMC (1897 – 1955) and Brigadier General Joseph Jacob Foss, USMC (1915 – 2003), both of whom served as presidents of the NRA. Additionally, both of these distinguished veterans earned the Medal of Honor while fighting the Japanese on Guadalcanal in 1943.
The wreaths are laid each December by a growing corps of volunteers who join withWreaths Across America. The effort started in 1992 when a Maine businessman donated 5,000 leftover wreaths for placement at Arlington National Cemetery. Wreaths Across America was founded as a 501(c)(3) non-profit with the goal of expanding the annual wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington begun in 1992. Its mission since then has been to honor every fallen military service member during the holiday season.
"In addition to Arlington, this year Wreaths Across America will have 2,500 other participating locations nationwide, the most ever," Worcester said. "We will be fulfilling the mission in every state and doing so safely following local guidelines in all cases. I can’t say enough about our dedicated volunteers who have come together in a difficult year to overcome nearly every obstacle to help ensure the mission continues. We are hopeful the American people will join the mission however they can this year and focus on all the good that we can do in our communities when we come together.”
Although Congress has each year since 2008 proclaimed a Saturday in December “National Wreaths Across America Day,” the purchase of the wreaths is not federally funded. All wreaths laid at Arlington National Cemetery are donated by the public, often sponsored by family and friends of the deceased, but frequently by citizens looking to honor the fallen.
For more information on the effort to honor our fallen military veterans this holiday season, visit wreathsacrossamerica.org.