There are few sights more powerful or humbling than the rows and rows of white stones lining the fields of Arlington National Cemetery. No matter your religion, your background, or your beliefs, this is holy ground.
On Saturday, we joined more than 25,000 volunteers to place over 200,000 wreaths on the graves there.
Across the country, thousands more volunteers participated in similar ceremonies at hundreds of other national and military ceremonies. In all, close to 750,000 wreaths were placed on the graves of heroes across America.
Wreaths Across America is the organization that makes this all possible. Their mission is simple and important:
REMEMBER the fallen,
HONOR those that serve and their families,
TEACH our children the value of freedom.
“To be killed in war is not the worst that can happen. To be lost is not the worst that can happen… to be forgotten is the worst.” -Pierre Claeyssens (1909-2003)
On this gorgeous December Saturday, they accomplished their goal. This year—the 150th anniversary of Arlington National Cemetery—was the first year since Wreaths Across America began that all the graves at Arlington had a wreath–the result of donations from around the country and the world.
The morning was clear and bright and chilly, but not cold. Crowds of people streamed into the cemetery, where dozens of trucks full of wreaths waited, having traveled from Maine in a covoy down the East Coast earlier in the week.
Together with thousands and thousands of others, we placed wreaths on graves, pausing each time to say a silent thank you to the veteran lying in rest.
We found the grave of Matt’s Great Grandfather, who served in WWII.
We visited the grave of Matt’s Great Uncle Don, who served in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. Matt’s Great Aunt Laura is laid to rest with him.
It was an extremely powerful experience. Although we were there to honor those who had served in our military, the privilege and the honor were actually ours. As veterans ourselves, Matt and I want to teach our children the value and importance of service. This morning was a concrete way to show our children how we can thank those who have served, and to help them understand in some small way the immensity of our debt to those who gave their lives for our freedom.