Wreaths Across America, December 17, 2022

Submitted by Jane Busdeker, Martha Dandridge Washington Chapter, NSDAR

Billie Cobb and Holly Matthews, Cavett Station Chapter, NSDAR; LeAnn Johnson, Samuel Frazier Chapter, NSDAR; Jessica Fowler, James White Society, Children of the American Revolution (C.A.R.); and Carolyn Mitchell and Janet Guyett, Martha Dandridge Washington Chapter, NSDAR, participated in laying wreaths at the Wreaths Across America event at the New East TN State Veterans Cemetery, 2200 E. Governor John Sevier Hwy. on December 18, 2021.

Shirlene Morgan, Martha Dandridge Washington Chapter, NSDAR, used a walking stick to gather up wreaths remaining after the Wreaths Across America display at the New East TN State Veterans Cemetery, January 15, 2022.

Giving the gift of remembrance!

Each December, Wreaths Across America (WAA) coordinates wreath-laying ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery and at more than 3,400 other locations in all 50 U.S. states. Wreaths are also laid at sea and in foreign lands. According to its website www.wreathsacrossamerica.org, the non-profit organization has three paramount goals: to REMEMBER our fallen U.S. veterans, to HONOR those who serve, and to TEACH our children the value of freedom. As each wreath is laid on a grave, the name of the veteran is spoken to call to remembrance that person’s service.

The organization was created in 1992 when Morrill Worcester, owner of Worcester Wreath Company in Harrington, ME, found the company with an excess of wreaths near the end of the holiday season. Remembering the intense impression that Arlington Cemetery made on him when he visited it as a 12-year-old newspaper boy, he decided that he wanted to honor our American veterans. He garnered the help of Maine Senator Olympia Snowe to get permission to place the wreaths in a section of the cemetery that received few visitors.

Worcester enlisted the aid of the Blue Bird Ranch, Inc., trucking company to provide transportation to Virginia, and local American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) posts organized volunteers to adorn the wreaths with hand-tied red bows. Then members of the Maine State Society of Washington, D.C., organized the wreath-laying.

Until 2005, the yearly event giving honor to our veterans was given little publicity. However, when a photo of the white grave markers covered in snow and adorned with the wreaths hit the internet, it created quite a sensation. The enormous response included people from across the United States who wanted to help with the Arlington project or to start other similar projects in their national and state cemeteries.

On December 18, 2021, volunteers laid 2.4 million wreaths across America. Worcester’s ambitious goal is to see a wreath on every veteran’s grave in the nation.

The last day to order wreaths for 2022 was Giving Tuesday, the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving, November 29. However, every wreath that is sponsored after that date will be included in the wreath laying on December 16, 2023, so it is vital to plan ahead for next year.

The cost of a wreath is $15.00, and sponsors can pay for as many wreaths as they like. The wreaths can honor a living veteran or service member, or they can memorialize a deceased service member. Those wishing to sponsor a wreath or sign up to volunteer to help with the distribution can do so on the website. Volunteers are needed to place wreaths on Wreath Day, coordinate new locations, lead sponsorship groups, offer corporate support, and donate trucking services.

An especially attractive offer called the Military Patriot Pair includes one wreath to be shipped to one of the cemetery sites and a second wreath to be sent to a friend or loved one at the cost of $34.50 plus shipping. The wreath to be shipped to a home is personalized with a flag of the U.S., a star, and a flag of a branch of military service in addition to the universal red hand-tied bow. A lovely wreath honoring military service would be a meaningful gift for any veteran.

The wreath-laying ceremonies at Arlington Cemetery in Virginia and at the New East TN State Veterans Cemetery, 2200 E. Governor John Sevier Hwy., Knoxville, will occur at noon on December 17. Information about the ceremony at the New East TN State Veterans Cemetery, is available at https://www.facebook.com/Wreaths-Across-America-Knoxville-TN-665710866875176 or by calling (865) 386-3674. Volunteers are advised to arrive early as parking is limited. Handicap parking will be available in the cemetery, while all others should park at one of two lots, Knox-Chapman Utility and Aqua-chem in the lot closest to Casey’s gas station. Shuttles will begin running at 10:30 from each lot. There will be tents in the cemetery where participants will be dropped off and picked up. Following the ceremony, a wreath will be placed on each grave. It is not necessary to pre-register to help to lay the wreaths.

The wreaths will remain on the graves for one month through the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. Volunteers will also be needed to collect the wreaths in January on a date to be announced later. Again, no registration is required.

The National Society, Daughters of the American Revolution (NSDAR) is a corporate sponsor of WAA, and members of the Martha Dandridge Washington Chapter (MDW) will participate in laying wreaths at the New East TN State Veterans Cemetery and at other smaller cemeteries in the area such as the Revolutionary War Graveyard, Harris Cemetery, and the Hopewell/Methodist/Baptist Cemetery in Dandridge. Major General Leslie Purser has announced that wreaths have been ordered for the 51 graves of veterans in Dandridge. On December 17 at 3:00 p.m., volunteers should meet at Hopewell Presbyterian Church, 812 Hopewell St., to place the wreaths on the graves. 

NSDAR President General Pamela Rouse Wright has said, “The National Society is pleased to continue our corporate sponsorship of the Wreaths Across America mobile education exhibit [which travels across the country throughout the year]. At the threshold of America’s 250th anniversary, it is more important than ever to show the world we will never forget our service members. Our pleasure is to collaborate with an organization that shares our commitment to our Armed Forces and veterans.”

For information about the DAR, contact MDW Registrar Karen McFarland at (865) 258-8670 or Regent Janet Guyett at (865) 712-8782.