In 1992 Maine businessman Morrill Worcester donated and delivered 5,000 balsam wreaths to be placed at Arlington National Cemetery, sparking a national movement to honor and remember our veterans. Fifteen years later, the national non-profit Wreaths Across America (WAA) was founded, to continue – and expand – this annual wreath laying ceremony. This year, on Saturday, December 17, more than 2 million volunteers in all fifty states will take part in Wreaths Across America Day, placing veteran wreaths at over 3,400 locations across the US, Puerto Rico and in France.
But Wreaths Across America does more than place veterans’ wreaths, it’s a year-round mission to remember the fallen, honor those that serve, and teach the next generation the value of freedom. WAA offers opportunities for community events and educational curriculum in all fifty states!
Each year, WAA remembrance ceremonies are held at nearly every statehouse, and they honor the veterans of our nation’s allies at the Canadian and French borders. Their annual pilgrimage to deliver wreaths from Maine to Arlington National Cemetery (possibly the world’s longest veteran’s parade) makes stops at schools, local monuments, and even veteran’s homes along the way to share the mission. The Thanks-A-Million campaign distributes free ‘I Owe You’ cards we can share with veterans as both a thank you for their service and a promise to give back.
To help our kids learn about the sacrifices our veterans and their families made, WAA developed free classroom guides for kindergarten through high school. Lesson plans feature videos, worksheets and projects from materials provided by philanthropic and patriotic organizations including The United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration, the American Rosie Movement, Random Acts of Kindness Foundation and The Congressional Media of Honor Society. Younger children hear stories read aloud while older students could view a first-person account from a real Rosie the Riveter. The lesson plans were designed by WAA’s Education Liaison, Cindy Tatum. A retired teacher, she felt the need to do more after she became a Gold Star Mother when she lost her Marine son on Christmas Eve. “I want America’s youth to learn that as citizens of this world, there are things they can do to lift the human spirit, things that are easy, things that are free, things that they can do every day.”
Older students are invited to help capture the veteran experience through the Veterans Oral History Project. Using a WAA questionnaire they interview a veteran, a service member or a Gold Star family and document their stories. These histories, along with educational materials and interactive activities will be shared through the WAA MobileEducation Exhibit, a mobile museum that travels to local communities around the country to teach and share its mission.
To learn more, or to download WAA’s TEACH materials, please visit www.wreathsacrossamerica.org/teach.
Wreaths Across America is volunteer driven; it receives no government support. National Wreaths Across America Day and their year-round programming are only made possible through the efforts of volunteers who organize and participate in the local events and raise funds to sponsor the wreaths. Sponsorship is just $15 per veteran wreath and many local civic groups will raise funds for their own programs through WAA’s national group sponsorship project. Since its founding WAA has given back over 18 million dollars to these local non-profits participating in the program.
National Wreaths Across America Day is a free event that’s open to all. To find a participating cemetery near you, to volunteer to place wreaths or to sponsor a veteran’s wreath for an American hero, visit www.wreathsacrossamerica.org.