December 14, 2013 marked the seventh annual Wreaths Across America Remembrance Ceremony at Fort Riley, Kansas. The yearly event took place at the Fort Riley post cemetery as well as over 750 locations across the country.
The mission of Wreaths Across America is to “Remember the fallen; Honor those who serve; Teach our children the value of freedom.” Wreaths Across America was started in 1992 when Morrill Worcester, the owner of Worcester Wreath Company found himself with a surplus of wreaths toward the end of the Christmas season. Reminded of a childhood trip to Arlington National Cemetery, Worcester arranged to have his surplus wreaths placed at Arlington in one of the older, less visited, sections of the cemetery. The yearly tribute grew, but remained fairly unknown until 2005, when photos of Arlington National Cemetery with wreaths adorning headstones in the snow circulated the internet. For more information on the history of the Wreaths Across America project, visit the Wreaths Across America website.
The Fort Riley event was hosted by the 4th District Ladies Auxiliary to the Veterans of Foreign Wars. After the opening prayer by Chaplain (LTC) Isaiah Gillette, and the posting of the Colors by the Department of Kansas Veterans of Foreign Wars Color Guard, Brigadier Christopher Ghika, Deputy Commanding General for Transition for the 1st Infantry Division, spoke about the value of remembering. Ghika spoke about WWI and the initial Day of Remembrance, November 11; sharing the history of the poppy as a symbol of remembrance and honor, worn on the lapel in England.
According to Ghika, over 37 million fatalities occurred worldwide in WWI, which was to be the war to end all wars. “We know now that WWI was not the war to end all wars…,” stated Ghika.
Ghika declared, “There is an enduring need… laid on all of us to remember the sacrifices made in war.” He shared that wreaths were being laid in remembrance in over 200 countries across the world, stating, “As we join today with others in unison… we will remember, honor, and teach.”
In closing Ghika urged everyone in attendance to remember the 1st Infantry Division motto, “No mission too difficult; no sacrifice too great. Duty first!”
Six wreaths were presented; one for each branch of the military, as well as a wreath for those missing in action and prisoners of war. There was no Gold Star wreath this year as there had been in the past. The remembrance ceremony concluded with the retiring of the Colors after a 21 gun salute and the playing of Taps.
Next year, the Wreaths Across America Remembrance Ceremony will be held on December 13, 2014 at 11:00 a.m.