Wreaths across America-2017

Wreaths across America--solider.jpg“I’m an American” by Rick Charette– The theme for this year’s Wreaths Across America

I’m an American. Yes, I am.
I love my country. I love my land.
With you and me together, we each play a part.
We can make a difference with love in our hearts. 

We are many. We are one.
We are shining in the sun.
We’re united standing tall.
With liberty and justice for all.
I’m an American. Yes, I am.
I hold the world’s future here in my hands.
Gonna sing and shout it! It’s great to be free. 
Every single person has dignity

I’m an American. Yes, I am.
I promise that I will do what I can.
I’ll stand up for freedom. Live my life without fear
Going to make a better world, I know we’ll persevere.

Wreaths Across America --ArlingtonWreaths Across America is an annual event.  “Each December on National Wreaths Across America Day, our mission to Remember, Honor and Teach is carried out by coordinating wreath-laying ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery, as well as over 1,200 additional locations in all 50 U.S. states, at sea, and abroad.

From the website:

Morrill Worcester, owner of Worcester Wreath Company of Harrington, Maine, was a 12 year old paper boy for the Bangor Daily News when he won a trip to Washington D.C. His first trip to our nation’s capital was one he would never forget, and Arlington National Cemetery made an especially indelible impression on him. This experience followed him throughout his life and successful career, reminding him that his good fortune was due, in large part, to the values of this nation and the veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

In 1992, Worcester Wreath found themselves with a surplus of wreaths nearing the end of the holiday season. Remembering his boyhood experience at Arlington, Worcester realized he had an opportunity to honor our country’s veterans. With the aid of Maine Senator Olympia Snowe, arrangements were made for the wreaths to be placed at Arlington in one of the older sections of the cemetery that had been receiving fewer visitors with each passing year.

As the wreaths are laid on each grave site, the name of the  person is said aloud.  In this way, not only is the person’s service honored, the person is also remembered.

Wreaths across America--crowds

Seeing volunteers (military and civilian) lay wreaths on the graves is a very moving experience.  People gather out in the cold (sometimes in the snow) to carefully place a lovely red ribboned, green wreath against each tombstone.  As they do this, they say the name on the headstone  out loud and thank them for their service, before moving on to the next grave. Wreaths across America--snow

 

At Arlington Cemetery, these wreaths have a military precision to them as they are laid on each grave site–so many that they cover the rolling hills.  At Ft. Rosecrans, in San Diego (the second largest cemetery) there are not as many wreaths to cover each grave and  many of the graves face the sparkling blue Pacific. If a cemetery can look festive, the green wreaths in the bright sunlight can somehow pull it off.

How can we help?  You can sponsor a wreath, volunteer to place wreaths in a national cemetery near you (there are over 1200 through out the U.S. and others on foreign sois), recommend a location near you, offer trucking or corporate support.

On National Wreaths Across America Day each December, volunteers place wreaths on individual veterans’ graves in over 1,200 locations throughout the U.S., with ceremonies at sea, and at each of the national cemeteries on foreign soil, or donate to a local fundraising group.

This year, the wreath convoy has already left Maine for Arlington.  The wreaths will be laid at Arlington, this Saturday, 16 December.  It’s not too late to volunteer, if you are in the area and would like to participate.

Have you ever participated in laying a Christmas wreath on a grave site?  Join in the conversation and share your thoughts/experiences with us.

 

Veteran’s Day–Laying a Wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

The Sentinel’s Creed

My dedication to this sacred duty
is total and whole-hearted.
In the responsibility bestowed on me
never will I falter.
And with dignity and perseverance
my standard will remain perfection.
Through the years of diligence and praise
and the discomfort of the elements,
I will walk my tour in humble reverence
to the best of my ability.
It is he who commands the respect I protect,
his bravery that made us so proud.
Surrounded by well meaning crowds by day,
alone in the thoughtful peace of night,
this soldier will in honored glory rest
under my eternal vigilance.
Simon 1971

 

Veteran’s Day was originally Armistice Day, signalling the end of World War I–the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.  The British call it Remembrance Day, and mark it with a two minute silence at 11am to remember people who have died in the war.  The French celebrate it as Armistice Day.

“Congress passed a resolution in 1926 for an annual observance, and Nov. 11 became a national holiday beginning in 1938. Unlike Memorial Day, Veterans Day pays tribute to all American veterans—living or dead—but especially gives thanks to living veterans who served their country honorably during war or peacetime.”  –from the History.com

wreathlaying Arlington Cemeterypresident commemorates veterans day

One of the traditional American ceremonies (besides Veteran’s Day parades) is for a high-ranking U.S. official (often the President of the United States) to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington Cemetery.

From the Arlington Cemetery website, “The gift of flowers at a memorial site is a ritual that occurs around the world, understood in every culture. The floral tributes at funerals bespeak both the beauty and the brevity of life and evoke memories of other days. These type of memorials are made each day at Arlington National Cemetery, at the dozens of funeral services occurring there and in solitary communion with a departed loved one. ”

“The most solemn of these occur on state occasions where the president or his designee lays a wreath to mark the national observance of Memorial Day, Veterans Day or some other special occasion. As a general rule, these take place at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, attended by ceremonial units from the uniformed services. ”

The Tomb is guarded by soldiers from the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), headquartered at Ft Myer.  The guards are all volunteer.  The requirements are rigorous; the standards exacting.

 

guard at the tomb of the unknownsThe Tomb Guard

Serving at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (Tomb) was a defining period in the lives of Tomb Guards. Although Tomb Guards come from every state in the United States of America (U.S.) and every walk of life, they are forever bonded through their shared experience of service at the Tomb. A strong bond was formed through an extremely demanding and humbling experience.

Tomb Guards are handpicked and rigorously trained. The duty at the Tomb is not for everyone, with the majority of soldiers who begin Tomb Guard training failing. Tomb Guards describe their service as a privilege and an honor, and are undeniably proud of their service. They are part of an unbroken chain of soldiers dating back to 1926. The ideals of the Tomb became the Guidepost for their lives, as well as a motivating factor and measuring stick for future endeavors.

The Sentinel’s Creed is the Tomb Guard standard. The 99 words of the creed capture the true meaning of their duty. You will often hear the words “Line-6” proudly uttered by Tomb Guards as they converse with each other or with their chain of command.

Veteran's Day--graveyard old guard

In 2004, I was fortunate enough to be one of four librarians from the Military Libraries Division of the Special Libraries Association to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in December.  We had to request permission almost a year in advance.  We were lucky enough to be given a time and a date.  The Sergeant of the Guard worked with us to make sure we did this with the appropriate dignity and ceremony.  Per custom, we provided the wreath and the people to carry the wreath down the steps to the tomb. (The group carrying the wreath is limited to a maximum of four people.)