One day after Arlington National Cemetery canceled Wreaths Across America’s annual wreath-laying ceremony, which happens at Arlington and the Soldiers’ and Airmens’ Home Cemetery, Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy changed course. He ordered Cemetery leadership to go forward with the event, despite concerns about the growing number of coronavirus cases in the Washington area.
President Trump also chimed in on Twitter, saying he had reversed the “ridiculous” decision to cancel the event.
I have reversed the ridiculous decision to cancel Wreaths Across America at Arlington National Cemetery. It will now go on!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 17, 2020
The cancellation had been made after Arlington Cemetery leadership decided that there was no way to hold the event respectfully without serious risk of spreading the coronavirus, according to an announcement released Monday. However, in a statement on Facebook, McCarthy said that the Cemetery would release the final schedule for the ceremony soon.
The ceremony at Arlington is one of thousands scheduled to take place across the country. Wreaths Across America coordinates wreath-laying ceremonies at over 2,100 locations across the U.S., including 50 sites in the Washington area. WAA hopes to honor fallen veterans across the country every year by placing wreaths on their graves and saying their name out loud.
Other ceremonies in the area are also scheduled to go on: Wreaths Across America will be laying wreaths at Alexandria National Cemetery and Quantico National Cemetery, according to the WAA website. While the ceremony at Quantico will be spaced out over three days to mitigate the risk of spreading the virus, no modifications have been announced for the ceremony at Alexandria.
Those looking to get involved with Wreaths Across America can sponsor wreaths to be laid on veterans’ graves: One wreath costs $15. Volunteers can also sign up to lay wreaths on WAA’s website.
Wreaths Across America was started in 1992 by Morrill Worcester, owner of Worcester Wreath Company in Maine. That year, Worcester had a surplus of wreaths, so he decided to tie red ribbons around them and lay them on graves at Arlington Cemetery. With the help of Retired Senator Olympia Snowe and local veterans’ groups, Worcester was able to place wreaths at graves in the older sections of the Cemetery, which receive fewer visitors, and at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Since then, the program has grown across the country.