Last year, I participated in an incredibly moving event at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery. Hundreds of people came out to help lay thousands of evergreen wreaths at the graves of those who wore our nation’s uniform, in times of peace and times of war as part of Wreaths Across America.
These brave men and women are united in eternity as they were in life among the peaceful, gently rolling fields, against a backdrop of winter bare trees that is the stark beauty of this hallowed final resting place at this time of year. This site, this one place seems ordained by heaven to be imbued with all the majesty these men and women in life chose to defend and who in death, by their placement here, preserve for generations of Americans to come. I do not believe it is possible to gaze on this place and not be moved unless you have a heart colder and harder than the 31,000 stone markers that march across the landscape.
That is the feeling I get each time I visit here. What is different about this one day is the sight of hundreds of people, young and old, reverently placing wreaths of remembrance on so many graves. This event is scheduled to coincide with wreath laying ceremonies throughout the country, from our most famous national cemetery in Arlington Virginia to the Presidio in San Francisco, Fort Richardson in Alaska to the Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu to the National Cemetery at Homestead Florida. On this one day, every corner of the land is united for a few moments, and the feeling of unity is palpable. It is a solemn occasion, but there is joy as well; the joy that is the spirit of the season, of giving, of remembering and of honoring those who lived and served to preserve for us this and all seasons.
This annual and now nationwide event started in 1992 when Morrill Worcester, owner of Worcester Wreaths found himself with a surplus near the end of the Christmas season. Remembering a boyhood trip to Arlington National Cemetery, he decided to have these Wreaths sent to Virginia. Beginning that year and each year since, James Prout, the owner of Bluebird Ranch, Inc., a local trucking company, volunteered to deliver the Wreaths all the way to Arlington. Things went on this way for many years.
Then, in 2005, the above photo of Arlington blanketed in snow, with a wreath on each headstone as far as could be seen started winging it’s way across the country on the Internet. Soon, requests came pouring in for wreaths. Unable to supply all the wreaths for every National Cemetery, but wanting to help communities honor those laid to rest in their local cemeteries, Morrill Worcester decided to send seven Wreaths, one for each branch of the military and one for the POW/MIAs to each and every state in the union.
In 2006, Civil Air Patrol, the Patriot Guard Riders and countless other civic and community groups have gotten involved in what has become the annual Veteran’s Honor Parade on the East Coast, from Maine to Virginia each December. By the next year, it was obvious this was something more than one family, one company could handle alone and Wreaths Across America was formed in 2007 as a 501 ( c ) 3 with a simple mission statement: Remember. Honor. Teach.
By 2010, a national network of volunteers laid nearly a quarter of a million Wreaths at more than 545 locations across the nation and around the world. Nearly 1000 groups and organizations participated in fundraising efforts to secure wreaths, decorate them with hand-tied red ribbons and ship these symbols of remembrance and honor, to be lovingly placed by tens of thousands of volunteers on the graves of those who at one time in their lives chose nation over self.
This year, there will be a ceremony at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery on Saturday, December 15th at 11:00am. At the conclusion of the brief ceremony, hundreds will fan out across these gently rolling grounds to place over 4,500 Wreaths, just as thousands of others will be doing the same from coast to coast and around the world, wherever our heroes have been laid to rest.
It is not too late to get involved for this year. Everyone is invited to witness this incredibly moving event and to participate in the joyous thanks given to those who served us all, to preserve our way of life. To donate or to volunteer this year, click on the link below.
Or, just come out this Saturday to Remember, Honor and Teach.
Where: Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery
20953 W. Hoff Rd Elwood IL 60421
(Route 53, approx. 9 miles South of I-80)
When: Saturday, December 15th, 11:00am
Arrive by 10:00am to volunteer
Contact: Debbie Smothers
To sponsor a wreath, and for more information: