Wreaths Across America is humbled by and grateful for our volunteer force across this great nation. No other organization in this country can claim the amount of diverse, dedicated, and compassionate people who are committed to paying tribute to the courage and sacrifice of our nation's military and their families.

As we experience unprecedented growth, Wreaths Across America recognizes the need to better communicate with our volunteers and provide them with the tools and resources necessary to accomplish the mission to remember our fallen, honor those who serve and their families and teach younger generations the value of freedom.

We are celebrating the successful completion of our very first S.W.A.T. (Special Wreaths Advisory Team) Training at our headquarters in Maine which provided an invaluable opportunity for the Wreaths Across America staff to meet with and learn from location and fundraising group leaders from across the country. Together, the group examined strengths and weaknesses of the organization while gaining invaluable insight into what motivates one another to support the mission with such passion.

The first S.W.A.T. Team training brought together: Carol Davis from Fort Jackson National Cemetery in South Carolina; Beth Sattizahn from Fort Indiantown Gap National Cemetery in Pennsylvania; Randy Lewer from Florida National Cemetery; Debbie Bennet from Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Illinois; Ellen Fuller from Texas State Cemetery; Judy Carlile from Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in Texas; Gaylene Ramos from San Joaquin Valley National Cemetery in California and Tamara Earp with the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery.

The group discussed a variety of communications channels, fundraising strategies, nonprofit finance and regulations management, community awareness and education. They also shared a lot of laughs and tears typical of the Wreaths Across America experience.

During the three-day training, volunteers visited the tip land to see the balsam fir tipping process, make a wreath with Wreaths Across America's founder Morrill Worcester, and tag remembrance trees. Judy Carlile has been to Maine previously to select a remembrance tree and hang her husband's replica dog tags from its branches. She describes the meaning of her visit to Jim's tree.

"To know that your loved one's dog tags are hanging on a tree and that tree continues to grow year after year is amazing. It's a living legacy to that person to know that when it's that trees turn to be tipped for the making of a veterans' wreath, his memory continues not just in death. It took my heart away to be able to visit Jim's tree and see it flourishing."

"Our volunteers play such a huge role in our mission, and they're the boots on the ground teaching our children about character," shared Karen Worcester, Wreaths Across America's Executive Director. "There's a generation of kids in America who need to learn why this country is the best one out there and why it's worth the fight. We want our volunteers to be energized and truly understand what's behind Wreaths Across America so they can answer the questions in their communities to get people involved."

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. With over 1,400 participating locations and more being added Wreaths Across America plans to host regional volunteer training and information sessions where volunteers and staff can collaborate on creative ideas and solutions.

All participants gathered for the first S.W.A.T. training agreed that Wreaths Across America is not about the wreath and one-day event as much as it is about the ceremonies remembering and honoring veterans and their families and teaching younger generations about respect and gratitude.

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