National Wreaths Across America Day in December happens because of patriots like you who sponsor wreaths today to ensure no one is forgotten.
The handmade balsam fir wreath from Maine with its single red bow has come to symbolize patriotism, honor, and respect. The magic behind its circular shape and the fresh evergreen scent is its cathartic ability to unite and soothe. From stem to stone, the wreath you sponsor is a connection for the living that has a lasting and powerful impact on people's lives.
One of those very personal and intense connections happened last year between Angela Beason, a high school Math teacher in Central Arkansas, and a young student she'd never met. That student lost her stepdad during combat operations in Iraq.
"Through my husband's service and our involvement with the Arkansas Run for the Fallen we've done a lot over the past twenty years with Gold Star families but my teaching career and volunteer work never really intersected before," explained Angela. "On that first day of class I told the students a bit about myself, and I also talked about Tom Martin who graduated from Cabot High School where I teach. After class, a young lady by the name of Ariana Ramirez stayed behind and said she thought her stepdad was honored in the Run for the Fallen and I remembered her dad's name, Sgt. Alan Shaw. He served in the U.S. Army. From that point, Ariana and I developed a special bond. I learned she had lived previously with her Mom and Stepdad before he was KIA in 2007. She returned to Arkansas and had lost that connection with Gold Star families when she moved away from that military facility, so I invited her to attend other events throughout the year."
Ariana says the connection she has with Angela is a strong one for which she's grateful.
"My Mom used to be involved in Gold Star events, but when I moved I let all of that go and when I got to Cabot I didn't really have access to it because I didn't know where to go, "explains Ariana. "Mrs. Beason helped me connect and I've met other kids my age and have made some nice friendships. Because I'm a Gold Star child I get to do some cool things and get to meet great people. In fact, I met a World War II Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, and I did a project on him. It means so much to me but I can't really explain it," says Ariana.
She shared some bittersweet memories that she could recall of times spent with her stepdad. Ariana was just seven years old when the Army notified them of his death.
"When we went swimming, I remember a tattoo of Superman on his arm and when we floated he let us carry him in the water instead of him carrying us, and that made us feel strong. Deployments were hard when he left, but it was so good when he got back," Ariana recalls. "We were excited to be able to have video chats on Skype with him, but my Mom always knew something was up when he didn't call in."
Angela got involved as a Wreaths Across America volunteer several years ago during one of her husband's deployments to Afghanistan. In 2016, Angela had the honor of participating in the annual wreath escort to Arlington, and it was during that visit that she once again made a connection happen for Ariana.
Ariana's stepdad, Sgt. Alan Shaw was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery in 2007.
"I started walking toward Section 60 and reached Ariana through Facetime to give her an opportunity to see everything happening, and she walked with me every step of the way to her stepfather's grave. The wreath had already been placed, but I sat it up and fluffed up the ribbon while she had a chance to see it. It was such a special morning, and we both cried."
Ariana recalls the moment.
"It was really hard because I couldn't hug her. As soon as she put her hand on the wreath, I started to cry, and I could tell she was starting to tear up. After she hung up, I just cried because I was so happy someone actually showed me the wreath on his grave the day that it happened rather than with a picture later."
Before graduating this year, Ariana selected Angela for a Life Impact Diploma.
You can hear more from Angela and Ariana 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.
Photo Contest Winners Announced
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.