At the end of December I had the opportunity to participate in helping to decorate graves at the Leavenworth National Cemetery in Leavenworth, Kansas during Wreaths Across America. I’ve participated in this activity for close to the last five years and every year it gets better and better. The group I go with has grown from half a dozen participants to a whopping 22 this year! Rough statistics indicated there were about 10,000 wreaths to be laid this year. Although it sounds like a lot, with all the people who turned out to participate this year it didn’t take more than 30 minutes to get all 10,000 wreaths laid. It was truly humbling.
Wreaths Across America began in 1992 when Morrill Worcester (owner of Worcester Wreath Company in Harrington, Maine) ended up with a number of surplus wreaths at the end of the holiday season. Worcester reached out to Senator Olympia Snowe and together, with the assistance of many individuals and organizations, the surplus wreaths traveled from Maine to Arlington National Cemetery for the first tribute.
For over 10 years the tribute at Arlington occurred without fanfare until a photo was posted on the internet of some of the tombstones at Arlington, each with a wreath resting against the stone. The photo, and Worcester’s efforts went viral. In 2007, Wreaths Across America officially came into existence as a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization. Their mission is one of the simplest, and most touching, of any organization I’ve been in contact with: “Remember. Honor. Teach.”
Wreaths Across America is not a once-a-year organization. Their mission includes additional projects. I encourage you to read more about Wreaths Across America and consider becoming involved.
A ceremony is held before the wreath laying where you learn a bit about the Wreaths Across America movement, there’s usually a local hero story highlighted, and flag and wreath presentations are done to provide some fanfare. As the organizers release the crowd to begin laying wreaths, they ask participants to take a minute at the grave where they lay a wreath, say the name of the person buried there and take a minute to think of the sacrifice they made and thank them as you lay the wreath on their grave. That’s such a beautiful sentiment, that I wanted to take it one step further. This year, I’d like to share with you who I had the opportunity to thank as I laid a wreath at their graves and ask you to all take a minute as well and thank these soldiers for their service.
Leeroy J. Williams
I’d like you to meet Leeroy J. Williams. Leeroy Williams served in the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam War. He was born 4 March 1941. He died 6 December 1996.
PFC Thomas Mayfield
I’d also like to introduce you to PFC Thomas Mayfield, who served in the U.S. Army during World War II. He was born 7 April 1904 He died 9 January 1996. He joined the military on 11 November 1942.
I had hoped to learn a little more about the veterans I laid a wreath for but I have been lacking the time to put into the research.
I was honored to be able to participate in the 2017 Wreaths Across America. It’s a wonderful cause and I’m looking forward to participating again in 2018 and I’d love to hear that you participated too! So save the date for December 15, 2018!
Click the button below to learn more about Wreaths Across America.