On Dec. 14, 2019, Americans placed 2.2 million wreaths on the graves of veterans at 2,158 locations scattered throughout the U.S. In Arlington National Cemetery alone, 38,000 volunteers distributed 254,000 wreaths. This national tradition of wreath-laying began 28 years ago when a Maine native and owner of a wreath company desired to show his respect to our veterans and to thank them for their service. National Wreaths Across America Day has since become a national movement involving millions of Americans.
A Simple Act Goes Viral
In 1992, Morrill Worcester, the owner of the Worcester Wreath Company based in Harrington, Maine, had 5,000 wreaths leftover at the end of the holiday season. Instead of disposing them, Worcester decided to place them at the graves of veterans buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Volunteers adorned the wreaths with red, hand-tied bows. With the help of a trucking company, Worcester transported the wreaths to Washington, D.C. Once they arrived in the nation’s capital, additional volunteers helped distribute them.
Thirteen years later, Worcester’s yearly tradition caught the public’s attention after a moving photograph of his wreaths at Arlington went viral. As a result, in 2007, Wreaths Across America was established as a nonprofit organization with the mission to remember and honor our nation’s veterans and to teach Americans about them. “My ultimate goal,” Worcester stated during an interview, “is to place a wreath on every single veteran’s grave.” National Wreaths Across America Day is held each year on the second or third Saturday of December.
How Can You Get Involved?
You can ensure a wreath is placed on a veteran’s grave by becoming a sponsor. Here is a breakdown of the levels of sponsorship a person can select on Wreaths Across America’s website:
- One Wreath ($15)
- Two Wreaths ($30)
- Five Wreaths ($75)
- 10 Wreaths ($150)
Each balsam wreath is produced in Columbia Falls, Maine. A volunteer will place the wreath on a veteran’s grave (you can select a specific location if you choose to) and say his or her name out loud “to ensure that the legacy of duty, service and sacrifice of that veteran is never forgotten.” It’s a way to say thank you to these veterans. There are worse ways to spend 15 bucks. Consider adopting a veteran’s grave this December.
About Frank Jastrzembski
A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Frank Jastrzembski is an associate editor with Delta Defense, LLC. He studied history at John Carroll University (B.A.) and Cleveland State University (M.A.). He’s written dozens of history and travel articles and two books on Victorian officers. He’s also a regular contributor to the blog Emerging Civil War. He runs “Shrouded Veterans,” a nonprofit mission to identify or repair the graves of Mexican War and Civil War veterans.