Wreaths Across America (WAA) is scheduled to place 230,000 remembrance wreaths on headstones at Arlington National Cemetery, December 12, 2015.
In its 24th year, WAA is enlisting the help of 50,000 volunteers. The opening ceremony is scheduled to begin at the McClellan Gate on McClellan Drive at 9 a.m. Participants are encouraged to wear comfortable walking shoes and be prepared for large crowds and long lines.
“Our mission is simple. Remember, Honor, and Teach about the service and sacrifice,” said Tobin Slaven, Director of Communications for WAA. “We think the least we can do, is take time during the busy holiday season to stop, pay our respects and appreciation for the freedoms we enjoy each and every day.”
Notable events of the day include a wreath laying at President Kennedy’s grave slated to begin at 11 a.m. and a wreath laying at 11:30 a.m. by Maine Gov. Paul LePage.
A nonprofit organization, WAA was founded by Maine businessman Morrill Worcester in 1992.
“All the wreaths come from the State of Maine, and specifically from Worcester Wreath Company – the small company that started the tradition back in 1992,” said Slaven. “The non-profit was formed to expand the mission so more people could get involved, and bring the Arlington experience to their home communities.”
Slaven looks at the chance to work for WAA as an honor.
“Personally – I am fortunate because I am one of a small number of people who actually work for the organization, so I get to work on a project that is driven by the passion of hundreds of thousands of volunteers nationwide,” said Slaven. “Our Chairman and Executive Director both take no salary, yet work tirelessly year round to find different ways to honor more of our veterans.”
“2016 will be the 25th anniversary of wreaths being donated and placed at Arlington National Cemetery,” said Slaven. “While Arlington may be the best known and most visible of our national cemeteries, many folks do not realize that we have over 1100 participating in locations nationwide.”
Over 900,000 wreaths will be placed worldwide, said Slaven.
The mission of “Remember, Honor, Teach” is carried out in part by coordinating wreath laying ceremonies each December in Arlington National Cemetery.
Slaven has some personal ties with the military, as his father served in the Marines and has an Uncle buried in section 68 in Arlington National Cemetery.
“But most of all – I think of our connections we have made with the Gold Star families. I see them as the North Star of our organization,” said Slaven. “Every time we make a decision or plan our events, we think about how they might feel about our efforts, and will these small acts of remembrance help heal their pain and sense of loss for the one who made the ultimate sacrifice.”
For more information, visit WreathsAcrossAmerica.org.