by Joanelle Mulrain
On Saturday, December 14, thousands of people will be honoring veterans across America by putting wreaths on graves as part of the Wreaths Across America (WAA) event. WAA is a non-profit organization, dedicated to REMEMBER the fallen, HONOR those that serve and their families and TEACH our children the value of freedom.
WWA was founded in 2007, by a Maine businessman, Morrill Worcester, in order to continue and expand the annual wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, which began in 1992, as an event dedicated to the families of our veterans and members of the active military. Worcester donated 5,000 wreaths that year. The photograph of the wreaths went viral that year, and the image became a reminder to people to remember our fallen heroes. In 2012, the one-millionth wreath was placed, along with a total of 406,000 throughout America, with 105,000 of those placed in Arlington National Cemetery alone. More than eighty volunteer trucking companies and drivers helped deliver the wreaths.
Ronald Reagan, 40th United States President (1922-2004) said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”
In 2008, Congress issues a proclamation officially recognizing “Wreaths Across America Day” each December.
This year the program hopes to place wreaths once again at Arlington National Cemetery and in over 850+ participating locations nationwide, including the Jacksonville National Veterans Cemetery. It is anticipated that the project will be supported by more than 1,000 local fundraising groups in 50 states.
Last year, Gold Star family members, including Mary Byers, Grand Marshall of the Escort and National President of the American Star Mothers, along with MG Peter M. Alyward (retired) and SGT Henry Salice, US Army, who represented the Vietnam War 50th Anniversary Commemoration at Arlington National Cemetery, joined veterans representing all branches of the military.
Also, there is a pilgrimage from Harrington, Maine, to Arlington National Cemetery, which has become known as the world’s largest veterans parade, stopping at schools, monuments, veterans’ homes and communities all along the way to remind people how important it is to remember, honor and teach about who a veteran is and why each one is important to America and our history.
Special memorials are held for Pearl Harbor, Bunker Hill, Charleston Naval Shipyard and a wreath for every victim of 9/11 in New York City, the Pentagon and Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Also, there are State House ceremonies in nearly all 50 states.
The national organization conducts several programs to honor our veterans, and they participate in veterans’ events throughout the year, plus they have a veteran liaison on staff to work with veterans’ organizations.
The WAA is committed to teaching younger generations about the value of their freedoms and the importance of honoring those who sacrificed so much to protect those freedoms. The WAA website offers a downloadable curriculum and books to help school children appreciate the roles our veterans played in preserving their freedoms.
For more info on each location and how you can become involved, go to www.wreathsacrossamerica.org , or contact Ralph Terreault, Volunteer Coordinator for the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Cemetery at (904) 778.3709 or email him at [email protected]
National Wreaths Across America Day
by Joanelle Mulrain