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.

Angela Beason visits Ariana's stepdad in Arlington National Cemetery on National Wreaths Across America Day 2016 and shares the experience with her back in Arkansas.

Angela Beason visits Ariana's stepdad in Arlington National Cemetery on National Wreaths Across America Day 2016 and shares the experience with her back in Arkansas.

"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.

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