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Communities Prepare to Lay Holiday Wreaths on Veterans’ Graves

Wreaths Across America honors, remembers and teaches during annual event

spinner image Gravestones at Arlington Cemetery
NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images

Scores of trucks full of holiday wreaths are traveling from Columbia Falls, Maine, to all corners of the country to honor and remember deceased veterans at more than 4,000 cemeteries nationwide on Saturday, Dec. 16.​

​The nonprofit Wreaths Across America was inspired by balsam farmer Morrill Worcester, the owner of Worcester Wreaths Co., whose annual tradition of placing wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery gained the spotlight in 2005, after a photo of his handiwork in the snow became popular on the internet. Two years later, the organization was launched, in response to overwhelming demand for wreaths for cemeteries across the country and the desire of many people to get involved in the project.​

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This year, Wreaths Across America plans to distribute over 2.7 million evergreen wreaths across cemeteries in all 50 states.​

​“Morrill’s goal is to place a wreath on every veteran’s grave throughout the country, and that’s something like 24 million veterans that are buried out there,” says Wayne Hanson, chairman of the nonprofit’s board and former coordinator for Arlington National Cemetery’s wreath ceremony.

AARP and Wreaths Across America

AARP state offices participating in Wreaths Across America on Saturday, Dec. 16, include:

Wreaths Across America aims not only to honor and remember veterans but also to teach the next generation about the sacrifices made for freedom. It asks the millions of volunteers who assemble across the country to say the veteran's name as they place the wreath on the deceased’s headstone.​

​“You die once when your heart stops beating — you take that last breath physically,” Hanson says. “But then you die a final time when your name is spoken for the last time, and then you’re forgotten. We don’t want our veterans to be forgotten.”

​The organization’s annual pilgrimage from Maine to Arlington National Cemetery stops at schools, monuments and veterans’ homes to remind Americans of the importance of remembering.​

​The delivery of wreaths around the country is made possible by the contributions of hundreds of truck drivers who volunteer their time, fuel and equipment. ​The event is the result of a yearlong effort involving the organization’s headquarters in Maine and coordinators who volunteer in local communities.​

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“When I brought down those 5,000 wreaths that first year, I just thought it was a way for me to say thank you, for what we have in this country,” Worcester says. “I could have never imagined it would strike a chord like it has and made such an impact. Me and my family continued to be humbled by the support this program receives across the country.”

Wreaths, priced at $17 each, may be donated in honor, or in memory, of a veteran. You also can search for cemeteries that participate in Wreaths Across America.

Editor's note: This article, originally published Dec. 10, 2019, was updated to include information on Wreaths Across America 2023.

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