The observance, held every second Saturday in December to remember and honor vets nationwide, will have added significance at Arlington National Cemetery, which is celebrating its 150 th anniversary. The plan is to lay wreaths on the 230,000 graves as well as at the cemetery’s John F. Kennedy memorial/gravesite, the Mast of the Battleship Maine, and the Tomb of the Unknowns. Wreath-laying ceremonies also will occur at more than 800 military cemeteries across the country.
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It’s a monumental task that emerged from one man’s desire to honor those who served in the military. In 1992, Maine wreath company owner Morill Worcester had a surplus of about 5,000 holiday wreaths. Remembering a childhood trip to Arlington National Cemetery that left an indelible mark on him, Morill helped organize a wreath-laying tribute on those hallowed grounds. It became an annual tribute that inspired the establishment of the nonprofit Wreaths Across America (WAA) in 2007.
Today, the organization, based in Columbia Falls, Maine, relies on about 400,000 individuals who help raise funds, transport and place wreaths, and “share our mission to ‘Remember, Honor and Teach,’” says spokeswoman Amber Caron. It now boasts more than 1,000 branches, including 27 overseas.
WAA remembers and honors veterans through initiatives such as Thanks a Million, which distributes cards to people nationwide to share with veterans to thank them for their service. It maintains a museum at its headquarters that displays hundreds of military memorabilia, and offers books and learning tools to help children appreciate the importance of veterans.
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“We like to teach the young generation about the sacrifices veterans have made and the role they have played in safeguarding the country’s freedoms and its security,” says Wayne Hanson, WAA board chairman and a Vietnam War veteran.
But as far as visibly honoring veterans, WAA’s ultimate goal to place a wreath “on every veteran’s grave in every cemetery across the United States,” Hanson says. “With WAA continuing to grow on a yearly basis, anything is possible.”
Photo: Cliff Owen/AP
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