Holiday Tradition: Wreaths Across America


In the early ‘90s, a wreath company in Maine wound up with a surplus of wreaths in December.

Remembering a boyhood trip to Arlington National Cemetery, the owner decided he wanted to donate the surplus wreaths to Arlington. They were placed on graves in an older section of the cemetery where there weren’t many visitors. The company continued doing this quietly until a photo of wreaths in snow-covered Arlington National Cemetery (ANC) went viral.

ARLINGTON, Va. (AFPN) — Christmas wreaths adorn head stones at Arlington National Cemetery. The 14th annual wreath laying event is the result of Worcester Wreath Company’s owner Morrill Worcester’s, childhood dream of doing something to honor those laid to rest in the national cemetery. More than 5,000 donated wreaths were placed by volunteers this year. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Jim Varhegyi)

Since that photo was taken in 2005…

Wreaths Across America has continued to place a live wreath on the grave of service members throughout the US, US territories, and national cemeteries on foreign soil as a symbol of remembrance for their sacrifice. 

This idea of remembering those who spent a portion of their lives in service to our country, often risking their lives or losing their lives in that service, strikes a chord with me. So one year when I lived in DC, I volunteered to lay wreaths at ANC with some friends. It was a memorable experience, both touching and festive. After gathering for a few minutes in the amphitheater for an opening ceremony, we spread across the cemetery, taking armfuls of wreaths from trucks positioned throughout the property and looking for a grave that didn’t have one yet while chatting with our fellow volunteers. 

Most people would put all their wreaths down in a row, many stopping for a few seconds after placing the wreath before moving to the next one. Occasionally, you’d see someone purposefully walk straight to a certain grave, place the wreath, and then linger for a few minutes before turning away wiping their eyes.

Visiting ANC is always a special experience, but I’ll never forget that trip. 

Remember. Honor. Teach. 

The mission of Wreaths Across America is to “Remember our fallen U.S. veterans, Honor those who serve, and Teach your children the value of freedom.” There are two ways you can get involved this year here in Richmond.


Wreath laying this year is on December 16th. You can search Wreaths Across America to find a cemetery near you that is participating. (There are several in the Richmond area). This is a great family opportunity, and my family plans to make this a tradition. 


Each wreath costs $15, and the vast majority of wreaths are donated by individuals and corporations. Even if you can’t volunteer in person, consider donating a wreath. Of the 1,000 veteran graves at Riverview Cemetery in downtown Richmond, only 194 wreaths have been donated. 

We’re all busy during the holidays, but there are some families who are missing a loved one during this time either because they’re currently serving or because they sacrificed their life while serving. Taking a moment to show that their service is remembered and appreciated is something we should find time to do.