Weekly Columns

Dec 05 2011

Wreaths Across America: Recognizing our Veterans During the Holidays

Senator John Boozman's Column for the Week of December 5, 2011

The Christmas season is filled with traditions. Whether it’s baking cookies, decorating the Christmas tree, hanging lights, or volunteering our time, we all have special things we do to celebrate the holiday season. While many of our traditions are special and meaningful to our families, one Maine family started a tradition that is now recognized nationwide.

A small group of volunteers—led by a family-owned wreath company—donated and delivered five thousand Christmas wreaths to Arlington National Cemetery in 1992, placing the wreaths on the graves of fallen service members and veterans. Since then, more wreaths have been added to more locations each year. Known as “Wreaths Across America,” the organization lives up to its name, blanketing national and veterans’ cemeteries across the country, including several in Arkansas.

In 2010, with the help of volunteers across the country, 220,000 memorial wreaths were placed at 545 locations. As in previous years, this is expected to continue to grow. This year, more than 400,000 wreaths are expected to be placed nationwide, by more than 150,000 volunteers.

The wreath laying is done annually, on the second Saturday of December. On Saturday, December 10th in Arkansas, volunteers will lay wreaths at the Little Rock, Fort Smith and Fayetteville National Cemeteries as well as the Arkansas State Veterans Cemetery in North Little Rock, Oaklawn Cemetery in Jonesboro, the State Veterans Cemetery in Birdeye, the Kyler Cemetery in Batesville and the Baxter County Veterans Memorial in Mountain Home.

Two years ago I had the honor of participating in the event the first year held at the Fort Smith and Fayetteville National Cemeteries. It was inspiring to join veterans, families, students and other volunteers, to support the men and women who proudly served our nation. The wreaths, each with one red ribbon, are laid on the grave site of our fallen heroes, transforming the cemeteries into a holiday picture, a fitting tribute of beauty, to our fallen heroes.

This year I will be recognizing this day at the Fort Smith National Cemetery in Christmas Honors, a program inspired by “Wreaths Across America,” and participating in events honoring the sacrifices of our veterans, service members and their families.

During the rush of the Christmas season, the sacrifices of our fallen service members often get overlooked. “Wreaths Across America” is a great opportunity to express our gratitude for those who have worn our nation’s uniform. This effort lets our veterans know that we honor their service. It shows their families that appreciate their sacrifice and mourn the loss of their loved ones and for the men and women in active duty, it demonstrates our appreciation for their courage, service and commitment to protecting our nation.

Throughout this season of giving, this recognition is the least we can do to thank our service members for what they have given us.

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