By Glynn Cosker
Managing Editor, In Homeland Security
Thousands of volunteers descended upon Arlington National Cemetery on Saturday to participate in the annual Wreaths Across America event, which brings together thousands of people to place a wreath at every gravestone in a majority of the nation’s veterans cemeteries.
It was my second time at the event, and I helped to hand out the wreaths at one of the two trucks sponsored by American Military University (AMU).
AMU’s volunteers showed up at 5.30 a.m. and stayed until the last one of their more than 3,000 wreaths was carefully placed against a gravestone in AMU’s four assigned sections of the cemetery. AMU educates more than 100,000 students worldwide and is a top veteran-focused university with a strong military heritage.
Wreaths Across America originated in 1992 in Maine when Worcester Wreath Company founders Morrill and Karen Worcester journeyed to the Virginia cemetery to lay some surplus wreaths upon the graves of veterans. It was a subdued, non-publicized event in the early days with only 500 wreaths placed. However, it ultimately became an annual national phenomenon after the advent of social media. The goal of putting a wreath on all 230,000 graves in Arlington National Cemetery is now met each year – and today was no exception.
Earlier this month, a convoy of 12 trucks with a total cargo of 250,000 wreaths left Maine for Arlington to be added to the thousands of wreaths transported from other states to make absolutely sure that all graves and memorials were honored.
Visiting Arlington National Cemetery is a moving experience on any day of the week, but extra emotion is added when one sees thousands of gravestones – each adorned with a fresh pine wreath with a red bow.
Walking through the cemetery, I was struck by how many people laid to rest in Arlington had unfinished stories – having been killed in action as young adults in Korea, Vietnam or other wars or conflicts. Also noteworthy was the number of military personnel who had fought in World War I and World War II; men and women – without whom – the United States would be a different place today.
The wreaths will stay in place through the holiday period.
Photos posted from other locations around America below:
Carla Lechette-Danberry from Fort Leavenworth, KS
Michael Turner from Fayetteville, Arkansas
Scott Roberts from Marietta, Ga