Last week, on National Letter Writing Day, we blogged about Operation Gratitude, A Million Thanks, and Soldiers’ Angels, three non-profits that have volunteers write letters to soldiers, veterans, law enforcement, and EMS workers. Because December is the unofficial month of giving, we wanted to also talk about another important non-profit that honors members of the military: Wreaths Across America (WAA).
Wreaths Across America is both a non-profit organization that was founded in 2007 and it’s also a holiday in December that falls on the third Saturday of the month (it used to be the second Saturday, but in 2016 it was moved to the third).
Some people may not know about the organization, but they likely know about the holiday, which has been around since 1992. This post will tell you a little about the holiday, the organization, and, most importantly, how you can get involved in honoring our recruits, active duty, reserve, and veteran military personnel.
NOTE – All pictures used in this post belong to the Wreaths Across America organization.
A Little History
Wreaths Across America Day began in Maine in the holiday season of 1992 when Morrill Worcester and his company, Worcester Wreath Company, ended up with a surplus of holiday wreaths. It was toward the end of the season, and Worcester wanted to do something with the excess inventory.
Years earlier, he had visited Arlington Cemetery in Washington, D.C., and the visit had a major impact on him. He recognized that he was only able to have his wreath company because of the soldiers who protected, and are still protecting, the United States. He decided then to donate the wreaths to some of the graves at Arlington, and he chose an older section of the cemetery that no longer had frequent visitors.
Volunteers heard about Worcester’s cause and immediately offered their help to place the wreaths on those graves. Since then, the tradition has carried on, and the establishment of WAA expanded this tradition to all 50 states (overseas and abroad, too) so that soldiers buried anywhere could be honored and remembered.
The mission of WAA is to “Remember, Honor, and Teach.” The idea is that no soldier can truly be forgotten as long as people are remembering them, their service, and their name. When volunteers place a wreath at the gravesite, they say the soldier’s name aloud and then thank them for their service.
Another important aspect of their mission is teaching the next generation about veterans, military personnel, and what their commitment to both the US and its people actually means. Having your kids participate in a wreath-laying ceremony is a great way to explain to them the sacrifice those soldiers made and how those sacrifices allow civilians to maintain their daily lives.
To understand the impact of WAA, it’s best to hear from the people who volunteer and donate, from the soldiers and veterans who participate, and from those who’ve lost a soldier, but know he or she is looked after by the kindness of strangers.
Sponsor a Wreath: For just $15, you can sponsor a wreath at Arlington or any cemetery where WAA volunteers go. That $15 means a lot not only to the soldier whose name will be said and remembered, but to the soldier’s surviving family. You can also donate a wreath to a living soldier or veteran and you can include an e-card so they know who it’s from.
Volunteer at an Event or Donate to a Local Group: Through WAA’s site, you can type in your zip code to find volunteer or donation opportunities nearest to you. If you live near Arlington, you can volunteer to participate in the wreath-laying, just as the folks in the video below did last year.
Start a Local Fundraising Group: For folks who really want to get involved, you can start your own fundraising group. WAA will help you by giving $5 for every $15 sponsored wreath or they’ll do their “3-for-2” program, which is where they give you a wreath for every two wreaths you get sponsored.
Add a Cemetery: You can also add a cemetery to the list, but you have to first check if the cemetery will allow it, and then you need to take on the role of “Location Coordinator” for that cemetery. You don’t have to have a fundraising group, but if you want to participate in the WAA’s $5/$15 or 3-for-2 program, you may want to consider it.
Corporate Fundraising: Corporations can also get involved simply by filling out WAA’s contact form. Someone from the non-profit will get in touch with you to create a custom donation plan that’s catered to you and your business.
Offer Trucking Support: If you have a trucking company, you can volunteer your trucks to transport WAA wreaths. Truckers are desperately needed because there are thousands of wreaths that have to be transported. Since most WAA groups try to cover every single grave in a cemetery, it’s not uncommon to need 1,000 or more wreaths for a single ceremony (Arlington, for example, has about 400,000 graves).
Spread the WAA Word: If you can’t donate or volunteer, you can always help out by spreading the word about WAA and their mission. Local WAA groups may not be well-known, especially in non-military areas, so looking at those groups and helping them advertise their cause is a great way to help! You can get started by using #WreathsAcrossAmericaDay on social media.
The WAA website has lots of other information as well as a blog that you can check out. However you decide to get involved, remember that no moment of kindness is too small! If you see a member of the military when you’re going about your day, take a moment to let them know you appreciate their courage and sacrifice.
Another way to support the military and help needy families? Don’t forget the annual U.S Marine Corps Toys for Tots Program! All you need to do is drop off an unwrappped toy at your nearest location, or you can make a donation online.
If you want to honor a fallen veteran, you can always put together your own wreath or fold an American flag up to lay atop their grave on Saturday, December 16th. You can also honor any living soldiers you know by giving them a wreath or other small gift just to say thanks. If you’re not sure what to give, check out TopProducts.com for helpful reviews of the latest products
August Wright, TopProducts Staff Writer