The third Saturday of December each year is National Wreaths Across America Day, a time to pause from the busy holiday season to honor our country’s fallen heroes. Tomorrow, December 15, 2018, nearly a quarter of a million wreathes will be placed on each gravesite at Arlington National Cemetery. Here in Central Pennsylvania, the same ceremony and laying of wreaths will take place at Indiantown Gap National Cemetery.
The event is free and open to the public. The program starts at 12 p.m., but visitors should plan to arrive earlier to allow time to park and get the the cemetery. Off-site parking is required for anyone who does not have a pre-issued designated parking pass; officers will direct traffic to the designated lots from Fisher Avenue. Shuttle buses will start running by 10 a.m. and continue running until all wreaths are placed and each volunteer is returned to their vehicle at the off site parking area.
The ceremony –which lasts about an hour – and the laying of wreaths that follow it will take place rain or shine. If you would like to help place the wreaths on the gravemarkers, you can volunteer here.
Last year, 1.2 million wreaths were placed on Veteran gravesite across the country, including 245,000 at Arlington National Cemetery. The wreaths are procured through “wreath sponsorships”—donations from individuals. Indiantown Gap National Cemetery’s fundraising goal was 40,000 wreaths; it surpassed that by 906. The cemetery has 50,000 veteran graves.
Wreaths Across America began unofficially in 1992, when a company in Maine had a surplus of wreaths and the owner, Morrill Worchester, decided to place them — with the help of volunteers — on gravesites in Arlington National Cemetery to honor the fallen veterans. He continued that tradition of single-handedly donating wreaths until a published photograph of his wreaths in the snow at Arlington National Cemetery drew national attention resulting in many wanting to expand his efforts. In 2007, the nonprofit Wreaths Across America was founded and has since expanded to all 50 states and abroad.
In addition to the laying of wreaths, Wreaths Across America runs the popular Thanks-A-Million campaign, which distributes free thank-you cards to people all over the country to share with veterans as a simple thank-you for their service.
For more information about Wreaths Across America, or to learn how to sponsor a wreath, visit wreathsacrossamerica.org.