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The History Of Wreaths Across America Day

Written by
Rob Brittain
Published on
December 1, 2020 at 7:06:00 PM PST December 1, 2020 at 7:06:00 PM PSTst, December 1, 2020 at 7:06:00 PM PST

Each year on either the second or the third Saturday of December, hundreds of volunteers and businesses partner to place wreaths on veterans’ graves throughout the nation. Known as “Wreaths Across America Day,” this year’s event will be held on December 19th at 2,400 cemeteries. It has become an annual tradition of remembering our nation's fallen heroes during the holiday season.

Although the U.S. Congress declared the first Wreaths Across America Day in 2008, the seeds for this annual day of remembrance for our nation’s fallen heroes were first sown 16 years earlier. In December 1992, Morrill Worcester, the owner of Worchester Wreath Company in Harrington, Maine, was looking for a creative way to put his excess inventory of fresh balsam wreaths to good use. Worchester recalled a trip that he had made to Arlington National Cemetery as a boy. He thought about all the veterans who had sacrificed their lives to preserve his and his family’s freedom, and he began to dream of a way to honor all of those veterans by donating his balsam wreaths for use and display at Arlington National Cemetery.

Worchester found an advocate for his mission in Olympia Snowe, a Maine Senator. Snowe made arrangements for Worchester’s wreaths to be placed in an older section of Arlington National Cemetery which was receiving fewer and fewer visitors each year.

With the plan approved and the balsam wreaths ready to ship, a small army of volunteers emerged to breathe life into the plan. James Prout, who owned a trucking company in nearby Jonesboro, Maine, transported the wreaths from Maine to Arlington. Volunteers from the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars made red bows for each wreath. Then, the Maine State Society from Washington, D.C. organized the laying of the wreaths, along with a special wreath presentation at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

From 1992 until 2005, the annual wreath-laying event was orchestrated with little fanfare. Then, in 2005, a photo of the snow-covered Arlington National Cemetery along with the carefully-placed evergreen wreaths and their bright red bows went viral. As the image circulated across the internet, so did it amass an avalanche of responses that included:

  • Offers to volunteer for the wreath-laying event at Arlington
  • Stories about the fallen soldiers whose lives and service were honored by the wreath laying
  • Notes of thanksgiving for all the volunteers who made the wreath laying possible
  • Requests to replicate the project at cemeteries across the country

Encouraged and inspired by the incredible response that they received from that single viral photograph, the Worchesters and their loyal group of volunteers began to look for a way to expand the scope of their mission. Their collective work led them to establish Wreaths Across America as a 501-(c)(3) non-profit organization in 2007.

A year later, Congress declared the first Wreaths Across America Day on Saturday, December 13, 2008. Event highlights included:

  • More than 100,000 wreaths placed on veterans’ graves at more than 300 cemeteries
  • Wreath-laying events held in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and 24 overseas cemeteries
  • More than 60,000 volunteers participated

As a complement to this year’s Wreaths Across America Day, on Saturday, December 19, 2020, many Americans will remember the fallen heroes in their lives by visiting local cemeteries on that special day as well as throughout the holidays. Should you need wreath holders, patriotic flags, or flag holders as a part of those remembrance visits, please know that Carrot-Top Industries offers a variety of top-quality cemetery products. For assistance, please call 800-628-3524 to speak with a Customer Care Professional. You can also submit any questions about a cemetery product by email or schedule a convenient time for a consultation through Contact Our Team.

Online Resources: CNN, Wreaths Across America

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