You know you’ve seen the wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery while stuck in traffic on the George Washington Memorial Parkway in December or January. Maybe you’ve only seen pictures like these.
Even if the only person you know of buried in Arlington National Cemetery has the last name of Kennedy– acting as a wreath laying volunteer with Wreaths Across America is free and for everyone. Events are held all over the country beginning on Dec. 8, culminating with wreath laying ceremonies on Saturday, Dec. 15th, 2012. The annual week-long veterans parade will begin in Main on Dec. 9, and end at Arlington National Cemetery on the 15th. The parade is the largest veteran parade in the country, and brings the wreaths from Maine, escorted by the Patriot Guard Riders. The group makes stops along the way as part of their mission: Remember, Honor and Teach.
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The main event is at Arlington National Cemetery, but there are more than 750 participating cemeteries with veteran grave sites. A complete list is available here. This year they hope to be able to cover the more than 244,000 gravesites
Several years ago my husband and I volunteered with coworkers, and it became the most memorable experience of that holiday season. After a short welcome ceremony and instructions– we were then on our own trekking through less-visited sections of the cemetery with wreaths on our arms.
One of the speakers at the kickoff ceremony that year reminded us of the significance of the graves– and that we may be the first people visiting them in years.
I’m looking forward to carrying on the tradition again this year. Although my daughter won’t understand the significance of the ceremony, I think she will love being outside for the morning. Fresh air. Holiday wreaths. Family time. The very thing these men and women risked and lost their lives to protect.
Wreaths Across America- 2012 Participant Information
- You can purchase and sponsor wreaths to be placed either at your desired participating cemetery for 2013 or in Arlington cemetery this year. This is a great idea for couples, families and businesses who want to participate but don’t have the time to make it on Dec. 15. Wreaths may also be donated to honor or in memory of someone. Also a perfect gift for someone on your list. Prices begin at $15.
- Volunteering on Dec. 15, begins at 9:30 a.m. with a welcome message/briefing at the Memorial Ampitheater near the Tomb of the Unknowns. Arlington National Cemetery opens at 8 a.m. and parking is usually tight, so metro is highly encouraged. Wreath laying will wrap up at noon, with a special ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns.
- Volunteers are also needed in late January to help clean up the wreaths on January 26,2013. More information will be available later in December here.