At a time in our nation's history when unity and common cause seem elusive, we hear time and time again from Wreaths Across America volunteers and donors that National Wreaths Across America Day makes them feel united and a part of something much bigger than themselves.
They are bound together across the country and overseas in similar community service projects that show gratitude and respect through the mission to remember hometown fallen heroes, honor those who serve and their families, and teach younger generations the value of freedom. Right now they're working diligently to sponsor fresh balsam fir remembrance wreaths to be placed on headstones this December as names are spoken aloud.
Some of the over 1,200 participating Wreaths Across America locations, like Long Island and Arlington National cemeteries, have hundreds of thousands of veterans interred there while others, like Fort McClellan Military Cemetery in Alabama, have a few hundred. Regardless of size or scope, committed volunteers embrace their work to be sure no one is ever forgotten during the busy holiday season. They're eager to share their knowledge about the lives of the men, women, and children beneath those headstones.
"Among the 445 souls interred at McClellan, 100 of them are infants; four sets of twins," Michael Abrams explains. "The first interment in 1918 was that of a Soldier from New Jersey who died during a flu epidemic before his training for World War I was completed."
Mike is one of the volunteers who work to be sure Wreaths Across America "has a presence" at the Fort McClellan Military Cemetery every December.
"Fort McClellan opened as Camp McClellan in 1917. It was later the home of the Women's Army Corps and then the Army Chemical Corps and Military Police Corps. It was closed 20 years ago as an official military installation and today is home to a large contingent of Alabama National Guard, FEMA's First Responders training facility, and corporate offices."
Some ceremony photos here were provided by The Anniston Star.
Michael has a close association with the cemetery having served at Fort McClellan as a soldier from 1975-1976 and returning there again as an Army, civilian employee.
The Wreaths Across America objective to teach younger generations the value of freedom speaks to Michael the most.
"My grandfather served in World War I, my Dad served in World War, and my brother served in the U.S. Air Force during the Cuban Missile Crisis," Mike shares. "Throughout my career, I've been around Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, Airmen and I've always looked up to them. My Dad was very quiet about his service. My grandfather never talked about his service but I've seen some relics of both of their service, and I think about both of them. Then what comes to mind is the young men and women who are serving today and who have been serving since 9-11 and their stories. Their professionalism and dedication to duty. Our children and grandchildren should never miss an opportunity to learn from and appreciate those who have come before them."
Mike says he wants to be part of an effort that gives the kids today every opportunity to experience for themselves a little bit of the remember, honor, and teach that is part of the Wreaths Across America program.
"As part of our Wreaths Across America project, we work with the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts, the Explorers, Young Marines, and sometimes 4H members," Mike explains. "We try to engage our groups the way that I think the founder of Wreaths Across America intended."
To give you an idea of the significance of the Fort McClellan Military Cemetery's Wreath Ceremony to that specific community, Mike says the event comes under the command of Major General (Ret.) Gerrald G. Watson. General Watson's wife and daughter-in-law are buried at Arlington National Cemetery where he recently visited their headstones with flowers because he knew he would not be there on wreath day. Instead, he will be officiating the wreath day ceremony at Ft McClellan.
Mike says the Wreaths Across America effort brings the Fort McClellan community together with area neighbors. Alabama Army National Guard Master Sgt. Robert A. O'Day coordinates the Guard's support for the ceremony and leads the official Color Guard. Annie Ingram joins in to play "Taps" on her trumpet, county engineer Brian Conary plays "Amazing Grace" on his bagpipes, Jo Rhea Ford, an Air Force veteran, and retired nurse keeps track of wreath sponsorships, and Bruce Large, an Army veteran, and regional salesman, adds to the diversity of volunteers coming together.
As we countdown to wreath day, Saturday, December 16, 2017, we acknowledge and thank our volunteers like Mike who value the mission to remember, honor and teach, so no hometown hero is ever forgotten.
You can hear more from Mike's interview, and interviews with our other volunteers on Wreaths Across America Radio.
Terry says veterans make up about 18 percent of the Berkshire Hathaway company's workforce. Wreaths Across America gives them the opportunity to recognize veterans across the country but most importantly says Terry to honor their employees who served.
Wreaths Across America announced that its Executive Director Karen Worcester and Founder Morrill Worcester were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor Society’s Patriot Award, the highest award the Society can bestow to an individual.
I was a Navy spouse for 12 years and during that time we lost over two dozen of our closest friends. Most of whom are buried at Arlington National Cemetery and Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego.
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Wreaths Across America chose the 2018 Mid-America Trucking Show (MATS) in Louisville, KY, from March 22-24 to debut its newly designed Traveling Education Exhibit. This 48-foot display trailer hooked to its Chevy truck was loaded with many “hands on” technology and interactive information about the program to help visitors learn about the mission to Remember, Honor, and Teach.
Chairman of the Board of Directors, Wayne Hanson was honored to be one of the Wreaths Across America team accompanying the exhibit, where one of the more memorable things he had the pleasure of doing was to say two words to some of those present…”Welcome Home!”
As the only fully-integrated recycling provider in Central Texas, TDS joined in the effort to remember, honor and teach by donating their services.
All of the 30 Medal of Honor Recipients in attendance during the four days of events were glad to have a chance to meet Morrill and Karen.
The goal of the S.W.A.T. training is to create a core "support group" for location and fundraising volunteers with more experienced leaders joining the ranks every year.
"If you're an American, you're proud to do it. I know it's probably one of the best things I've done every year."
Mission Matters with Karen Worcester is a new program heard only on Wednesdays on Wreaths Across America Radio. Here's the schedule of the shows coming up and a link to the station.
Anyone who really knows me knows that I am often a walking Wreaths Across America billboard. They will normally see me sporting a WAA-branded sweatshirt or t-shirt, my blue and green WAA wristband and my ever-present WAA baseball cap. I’m proud of my connection with WAA and love to promote what we do and why we do it.
That being said, I want to relate a recent encounter I had while standing in line at our local Social Security Administration (SSA) Office the other day.
Air Force Veteran*, Wayne Merritt, currently manages the Veterans Transportation Program based out of Wreaths Across America Headquarters in Maine. Monday thru Friday, Wayne travels to area towns in the Downeast region to pick up veterans and bring them to their doctors’ appointments. This is just one of the many free programs Wreaths Across America offers to veterans and their families.
Military children worry about their parent’s safety very day. These children face many challenges, frequent moves and lengthy separation due to trainings and deployments. They take on more responsibilities and worry about their parent every day.
"I really don't see it stopping, and we want people to tell us where they see it. Take pictures and videos when you check it out and share them with us on social media."
Debbie says she and the transportation team are excited about new and more efficient systems that will be in place for 2018 and beyond.
To come up with an accurate wreath count for sponsorships, great effort was taken to assure no one was forgotten.
As we approached, Morrill and I began to realize that here laid the body of a very important veteran that we had apparently overlooked for the past 26 years in our annual wreath placement.
The many stops along the way at schools, veterans organizations, police and fire stations were also overflowing with love and good wishes.
I want my daughter to grow up understanding what true heroes are and the sacrifices that have been made for us to live in a free country.
Complete strangers just moments before, together, Denny and Ella read the name on her grandfather's headstone and talked some about him while laying his wreath.
"When she explained to us what Wreaths Across America is and does, it was a no-brainer for me that we would get involved."
On behalf of her father Rod, Cindi shared her grandfather's words with the audience during the memorial service. You can hear her presentation and see other highlights from the service in this video.
These two quiet and humble individuals are a team dedicated to giving back to their nation. They educate others by sharing their experiences and lessons of love and sacrifice not just from the war but the other "battlefields of life."
To better serve our volunteers in 2018 and beyond, we're reorganizing and providing more tools to support their inspiring efforts.
"I witnessed a few of the boys laying an "in honor of" wreath. They did it with reverence."
Guided by an infrangible faith when the supply of lifejackets ran out they gave up their own to save the lives of others.
"I went up to that hill and looked at all of those graves of my colleagues who have gone before me.
Volunteers planning to assist in removing wreaths are asked to attend a short briefing at the McClellan Gate at 8:30 a.m. and to follow these guidelines.
As witnessed through this video, the volunteer commitment of patriotic citizens is a year-round effort that culminates in a remarkable day of unity, friendship, and healing.
Some give the ultimate sacrifice of a loved one and are often left in sorrow to wonder if other citizens remember or appreciate what they gave up for liberty and justice for all.