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. You see, my wife Ann will be celebrating her 65th birthday in April. Turning 65, she has to register for her SSA benefits under Medicare, Parts A and B. Well that process is a story in and of itself and I won’t take up my space detailing that process except to say there is a lot of “wait time” and multiple visits involved.

In preparation for our last SSA office visit, we thought we could maybe reduce our “wait time” by being at the SAA office well before the opening time of 9:00am. Our plan was to arrive about 8:15am and be one of the first in line. Unfortunately, several others must have had our same plan! As we arrived, there were already 18 individuals lined up at the front door, with others pulling into parking spaces nearby. We jumped out of our car and hustled to join the end of the line behind a nice lady wrapped up in her hooded coat against the early morning cold temperatures.

Ann and I began some casual conversation with this lady while waiting in line. The lady looked at me and after seeing my WAA baseball cap said, “Wreaths Across America – I do that.” Well what do you know! I asked her if she was involved at Arlington National Cemetery. She said she had been for several years and looked forward each year to volunteering again since her father, John Flowers, Jr., a World War II veteran was inurned in the Columbarium at Arlington. This lady, Becki Flowers, was in line to sign up for her Medicare benefits also as she was about to retire from Bloomberg National Affairs.  

Of course, I took the opportunity to tell her I was the Location Coordinator for Arlington and served as Chairman of the Board for Wreaths Across America. I presented her with one of my cards and she responded that she thought I looked familiar while we were walking up to get in line. Becki asked if she could give us both a hug, which we gladly exchanged. She said she was upset last December as she missed the opening ceremony due to the large crowds.

As we continued to talk, Becki told us that her father was a Battle of the Bulge survivor and that she had been a close friend with former WAA Board members, Edith Nowels and Sir Stanley Wojtusik. In fact, she met Edith and Sir Stanley while visiting the Battle of the Bulge monument at Arlington several years ago. Becki said that when Edith found out that Becki’s father was a survivor, she presented her with one of Sir Stanley’s gold Battle of the Bulge coins. Becki said she was an illustrator by profession and drew pictures using only ink dots. She shared examples of her work from pictures on her phone. One was of the head of a bald eagle and another was a beautiful drawing of the Battle of the Bulge Monument, which she had made into note cards for Edith and Sir Stanley.

Becki went on to say how she loved visiting Arlington and walking throughout the entire cemetery learning about some of the others buried there, even meeting a relative of Iwo Jima flag raiser Ira Hayes in Section 34, who asked her to take his picture at the marker. She especially liked volunteering on wreath day and being there for clean-up whenever she could, even asking one truck crew if they needed help breaking down and folding the wreath boxes.

Our conversation with Becki made the wait in line more bearable and soon the doors to the SSA office were opened. As we stepped inside to wait in another line to receive our “queue” number, I pressed a WAA Challenge Coin into Becki’s hand and could see that she very pleased to be so honored. Since Becki was in front of us, she got queue number A169 and we got A170. Since there were others receiving other alpha letters and numbers, we figured the “A’s” must deal with Medicare questions. We sat together almost two hours while waiting for our numbers to be called and continued to talk about WAA and share our stories about Edith and Sir Stanley, even watching the phone video of Miss Edith’s skydiving adventure again.

During our wait, we talked about WAA and our Museum in Maine. Upon learning that the veterans’ wreaths were made from just the tips of the balsam fir trees and that the trees were not cut down, Becki said she couldn’t wait to speak to a friend of hers who likes to protest everything. Becki said that her friend complained that it wasn’t right that all those trees were being cut down to make wreaths. Becki also took down some information about the Remembrance Tree Tagging program and wants to do one for her father. I asked her if she would provide a copy of her artwork she did on the Battle of the Bulge Monument so that we could place it with the other Battle of the Bulge memorabilia we have at the WAA Museum. She said she would send me one.

A voice called out A169 and Becki had to leave to meet with the SSA representative. We said our goodbyes, but know we will be in touch again.

“Wreaths Across America – Yes, I do that!”

Wayne Hanson
Chairman of the Board, Wreaths Across America

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