On December 16, volunteers will once again be needed to help in place remembrance wreaths on the gravesites in Arlington National Cemetery. For 26 years, Wreaths Across America, a nonprofit started by Morrill Worcester, has been placing wreaths in Arlington National Cemetery (which has over 400,000 gravesites) to honor our country’s heroes.
Worcester runs a wreath company in Maine. He visited the cemetery as a young boy and says he never forgot that his success was due in part to the sacrifices made by members of the US military. He started Wreaths America in 1992, after he found his company had an excess supply of wreaths towards the end of the holiday season. With help from volunteers, each wreath was adorned with a red bow and placed on a gravestone with direction from the members of the Maine State Society of Washington, DC. The initial event included a ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and the tradition has carried on since.
The initiative receives no government funding, and relies heavily on volunteer support, donations, and participation. Last year, around 45,000 volunteers showed up to place wreaths despite the freezing rain, and in 2015 around 60,000 volunteers showed up. Volunteers come from across the country. Wayne Hanson, who has been the Arlington Wreath Project Coordinator since 2005 and a chairman of the board for Wreaths Across America since 2011, recalls he has had people from California and even a gentleman from Hawaii. Remarkably, since 2013 every marker in the cemetery has been covered.
“We certainly need those volunteers to help us,” says Hanson. “Our mission is to remember, honor, teach, so we encourage whole families to come so they can teach children the cost of freedom.”
This year, the initiative, hosted by Washington, DC History & Culture, will take place on Saturday, December 16, from 7 to 11 am. Meetup groups will be meeting in four locations at times from 7:45 to 9:30 am. A full schedule for the day can be found on the Facebook event for the meetup, where you can find all the details you need to volunteer.