Thousands from CAP Join Wreaths Across America Salute to Nation's Fallen
On National Wreaths Across America Day, grateful Americans in every state, at 1,640 participating locations nationwide, placed 1.8 million fresh evergreen remembrance rings on the headstones of the nation’s heroes. At Arlington National Cemetery, nearly 60,000 rain-soaked volunteers placed 253,000 wreaths.
Nearly 600 truckloads of live balsam wreaths were transported across the country through a network of hundreds of volunteer drivers, donated trucking and diesel, and countless hours of dedicated volunteers committed to the mission to Remember, Honor and Teach.
“Wreaths Across America brings diverse people and communities together across the country to celebrate all that is good and just,” said Karen Worcester, executive director of Wreaths Across America. “It is our obligation as Americans to teach our children — and each other — about the value of our freedom and the character of the men and women who serve to protect it.”
Cadets and senior members from about 500 Civil Air Patrol squadrons joined in the tribute to the nation’s fallen, taking part in the national remembrance ceremony at Arlington as well as at other cemeteries and memorials — from upstate New York to northern Utah. Their roles varied, from presenting the colors to delivering orations and placing wreaths on veterans’ graves.
“Today, we show a united front across the United States of America, to honor the fallen,” said Cadet 2nd Lt. Hope McHenry, who spoke at a ceremony at Gerald B.H. Solomon Saratoga National Cemetery in New York.
The ceremony preceded the wreath-laying part of the event, when more than 2,000 volunteers braved the cold to place over 12,000 wreaths in memory of veterans buried there.
At Logan City Cemetery in Utah, CAP Capt. Jody Reese said, “We thank those who gave their lives to keep us free, and we shall not forget you. We shall remember.”
The Cache Valley Composite Squadron of Civil Air Patrol organized the event, garnering sponsorships for each of the wreaths placed in the cemetery. Volunteers placed 95 wreaths on the graves of veterans.
At Tyler Memorial Funeral Home-Cemetery and Mausoleum in Texas, Lt. Col. Charles Williams, commander of CAP’s Tyler Composite Squadron, said it was important for the organization to organize the event and honor veterans.
“Civil Air Patrol on a national level supports Wreaths Across America,” he said. “It’s important to us because a lot of us are former (service members), so we like to come out and pay our respects to people who went before us.”
Members of the Southeast Minnesota Composite Squadron trekked through the snow in Rochester to pay their respects. Terry Trondson, who organized the observance at Oakwood Cemetery, said, “I’m very impressed to see all of the youth here with Civil Air Patrol. They are disciplined. This is volunteer stuff — nobody is getting paid. For them to do this and stand over a grave and salute really touches you.”
Cadet Airman Basic Randi Malson braved the wind, pausing to salute each veteran’s grave, before placing a wreath on headstones at Oregon Trail State Veterans Cemetery in Evansville, Wyoming. She planned to help place wreaths at veterans’ graves in two other local cemeteries as well.
“I have five people who have served in the military with my family,” the 12-year-old said, “so every one of these is personal to me.”
Each live balsam wreath is a gift of respect and appreciation, donated by a private citizen or organization, like CAP, and placed on the graves by volunteers as a small gesture of gratitude for their service and sacrifice.
For centuries, fresh evergreens have been used as a symbol of honor and have served as a living tribute that is renewed annually. Wreaths Across America believes the tradition represents a living memorial that honors veterans, active-duty military and their families.
Volunteers participating in the 1,640 ceremonies across the nation on Saturday were asked to say the name of veterans out loud when they placed their wreaths to ensure their memory lives on.
“The fact that the cadets do so much of this is a huge honor to them, and they really take ownership of it,” said 2nd Lt. Rebecca Walsh, observing the ceremony at snow-covered Northern Wisconsin Veterans Memorial Cemetery. “It’s really an amazing thing that these kids get to place over 1,000 wreaths,a long with volunteers from all around the area.”
National Wreaths Across America Day is a free event and open to all. More information is available at the campaign's website.
Community Media Group, LLC, in Olean, New York; KAAL-TV in Rochester, Minnesota; the Herald Journal in Logan, Utah; the Tyler Morning Telegraph in Texas; WDIO-TV in Duluth, Minnestoa.; and the Casper Star-Tribune in Wyoming all contributed to this report.