By Marty McKee
Editor, In Military Education
BZZZZT! BZZZZT! BZZZZT!
When my alarm clock announced its presence at 4:30 a.m. last Saturday, it sounded like the Martian saucers in the original War of the Worlds. It had been a loooonng time since I rolled out of bed that early, but my reluctance to leave my warm bed in the Virginia suburbs was tempered by the knowledge I was getting up to do something good.
I was scheduled to be a truck volunteer for Wreaths Across America, a national non-profit organization that pledged to place 750,000 evergreen wreaths on the graves of military men and women in all 50 states this holiday season.
Along with many fellow American Military University (#AMU) staff members, I arrived at Arlington National Cemetery at 5:45 a.m., ready for a long, hard, but fulfilling day of placing “remembrance wreaths” on the headstones of servicemembers resting within Arlington’s 624 acres.
Arlington National Cemetery is an evocative presence at night, and walking to the Memorial Amphitheater with just the moon to guide me is an experience I’ll never forget.
That this year is the 150th anniversary of Arlington National Cemetery made the day feel that much more special, as I joined the other AMU volunteers at Section 3, where rests hundreds of souls, including Apollo astronauts Roger Chaffee and Gus Grissom. My job was not a glamorous one — breaking down empty boxes and stacking them on pallets to be hauled away later — but I was happy to be there to do my part.
All told, my group of AMU volunteers unloaded, broke down, and cleaned up after 300 boxes, and placed 3948 wreaths against deserving gravestones. Some stones had been there for 100 years. For most of the day, I stood fifty feet from a grave so new that it didn’t yet have a stone. But I made sure it got a wreath.
Volunteers of all ages came from all over and from all stripes — from Frank the truck driver, who trekked from Georgia to Maine to pick up the wreaths and then bring them back down to Virginia, to the Cub Scouts, college students, and just ordinary folk who stopped by to place a wreath or two or a couple dozen.
While we were volunteering at Arlington, so were thousands of others at cemeteries all across the United States, including Macon, Georgia. You don’t have to live near the nation’s capital to participate in Wreaths Across America. Visit their website to find out how you can be a part of Wreaths Across America 2015.
You can also learn more about this year’s Wreaths Across America by reading these related blog articles:
- Wreaths Across America Honors All in Arlington National Cemetery — In Homeland Security
- Ray of Light Shines Down on Grave During Wreaths Across America — In Homeland Security
- Corporate Philanthropy: How Wreaths Brought Thousands Together — Online Career Tips
- The War Experience and the Importance of “Wreaths Across America” — Edu Trends Online
- Celebrating Family, Freedom and Fitness — Sports + Fitness Network
- Honoring Those Who Sacrificed Everything, One Wreath at a Time — In Public Safety
About the Author
Marty McKee joined the Marketing Administration department of American Military University in April 2014. Among his duties is editorship of the In Military Education blog.