Wreaths Across America is a nonprofit organization that honors veterans every year by laying wreaths at their grave sites. Wreaths Across America started in 1992, when Morrill Worcester, owner of Worcester Wreath Company of Harrington, Maine, found that the company had a surplus of wreaths nearing the end of the holiday season.
Morrill Worcester remembered how, as a 12 year old paper boy for the Bangor Daily News, he won a trip to Washington D.C. His experience at Arlington National Cemetery made an indelible impression on him.
Remembering his boyhood experience at Arlington, Worcester realized that he had a unique opportunity to honor America’s veterans.
With the help of Maine Senator Olympia Snowe, he made arrangements to have the wreaths placed in one of the older sections of at Arlington National Cemetery, a section which had been receiving fewer visitors with each passing year.
Wreaths Across America continued quietly until 2005, when a when a photo of the stones at Arlington, adorned with wreaths and covered in snow, circulated around the internet. This brought national attention to the wreath-laying, which now takes place at more than 800 cemeteries nationwide.
At Arlington National Cemetery, four tractor trailer loads of wreaths delivered more than 100,000 remembrance wreaths on Saturday. A soldier laid one of the wreaths at the Tomb of the Unknowns. Thousands of volunteers placed the rest of the wreaths on headstones throughout the cemetery.
One of the volunteers was Toni Gross of Tampa Bay, Florida, whose son Army Cpl. Frank R. Gross, was killed July 16, 2011, in Afghanistan. He is buried in Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery.
"To be killed in war is not the worst that can happen. To be lost is not the worst that can happen... to be forgotten is the worst."
Pierre Claeyssens (1909-2003)
Hundreds of volunteers lay 10,539 holiday wreaths on graves at Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery to honor veterans.
At Sumter Cemetery, in Sumter, South Carolina, Civil Air Patrol Cadets hung 47 wreaths along the wrought-iron fence outside the cemetery where thousands of veterans, including Confederate and Union soldiers that were fatalities of the Battle of Dingle's Mill, on April 8, 1865.
At Central Louisiana Veterans Cemetery in Leesville, Barbara Schaeffer placed a wreath on the grave of her late husband, Franz Schaeffer, a retired Army veteran of the Korean and Vietnam wars. Nearby, DeAndre Herron placed a wreath on the grave of his grandfather, Robert Arvis Poteat, an. Army veteran who served in the Vietnam and Persian Gulf wars.
In Belpre, Ohio a dozen members of the Belpre community placed wreaths on the graves of 15 Revolutionary War soldiers who are buried in Cedarville Cemetery on the banks of the Ohio River,
At Jacksonville National Cemetery, where more than 5300 veterans are buried, volunteers gathered just before noon. One of the volunteers was Linda Davis, whose husband James served in the Army in Vietnam, and who was buried here just three months ago.
About 5,000 wreaths with red-ribbon bows were placed at the Albert C. Horton Jr. Memorial Veterans Cemetery in Suffolk, Virginia.
At Fort Gibson National Cemetery in Oklahoma, 378 wreaths were placed on grave stones.
Debra Lafon wore the dog tags her son wore in Iraq, Her son, Staff Sergeant Darras, died at the age of 25, after two tours in Iraq.
His mother came to chat with him. "I ask him to come home often times," Lafon said. "I try to get use to the idea that he is not coming back."
"Kind of a special time," Lafon said. "A special thing. He is kind of surrounded."
Disabled Air Force veteran Pranava Moody helped place wreaths with her family at a Wreaths Across America event at Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Boulder City, Nevada.
Moody, who has post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) said, “It’s really important to look back and think about those who helped pave the road for our freedoms.”
More than 1,600 volunteers placed big, beautiful holiday wreaths on more than 3,000 graves at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego.
On Saturday, more than 3,500 wreaths were placed on graves at Barrancas National Cemetery on NAS Pensacola, Florida.
As snow fell in Anchorage, Alaska, volunteers placed Wreaths on the graves of fallen service members at Fort Rich National Cemetery.
It snowed in Bath, New York too, where volunteers placed 351 wreaths on veteran's graves at the Bath National Cemetery, where 13,048 veterans are buried.
Volunteer Lisa Wilkins, who led Bath's Wreaths Across America event, said that the 351 wreaths were purchased for the event this year. The wreaths cost $15 apiece and are purchased through donations."This is one of the highest number of wreaths we've had," Wilkins said. "Next year we are shooting for 500."
At $15 apiece, it will cost $195,720 to buy wreaths for the grave of every veteran buried in Bath National Cemetery,
In Texas, more than 15,000 people came out to Houston National Cemetery to honor America’s veterans by placing wreaths at 40,000 gravesites.
At the Forest Lawn Cemetery in Greensboro, North Carolina, local residents raised $14,750 to help buy 1,100 wreaths that were laid on the headstones of veterans in the cemetery.
William Long, a WWII Veteran, said, "If we don't remember our past, we'll do nothing to meet the challenges of the future."