Wreaths Across America readies to remember veteran sacrifices

Becky Campbell • Oct 1, 2017 at 6:58 PM

If David Carter had his way, there would be an evergreen wreath, complete with red bow, on every veteran’s grave at Mountain Home National Cemetery in December.

It’s a lofty goal, and Carter is more realistic than to think Wreaths Across America and other organizations involved in the annual event could sell approximately 15,000 wreaths for those graves. Still, it’s nice to think about, he said.

“I hope to honor every veteran in there,” he said Friday.

The annual event isn’t a grave “decoration,” Karen Worcester, executive director for the national WAA said on the organization’s website. “We are not here to decorate graves. We’re here to remember not their deaths, but their lives,” she said.

Carter, the local coordinator for WAA, said he wanted to get the word out earlier this year than has happened in the past. Too many times, people tell him they didn’t know about it before wreaths were being placed on graves.

“We want to get the word out,” he said, allowing everyone who wants to donate, to purchase a wreath for a specific grave or volunteer for the wreath-placing event.

The Wreaths Across America ceremony is scheduled for Dec. 16. The ceremony will start precisely at noon as it coincides with ceremonies across the nation. Wreath placement will begin after the short ceremony. Volunteers are needed for wreath placement as well as cleanup in January. Except for handicapped accessibility, parking will be outside the cemetery.

The wreaths on graves concept was born from a 12-year-old paperboy’s experience 14 years earlier on a trip to Arlington National Cemetery. Morrill Worchester had become a successful businessman who owned a wreath company. In 1992, he ended up with too many, so he decked to donate them to Arlington as he remembered the sacrifices made by the veterans whose graves he’d seen at the cemetery.

“It’s one of those Norman Rockwell-type stories,” Carter said. In 2006, a photograph of Arlington with snow-covered green wreaths propped on gravestones drew thousands of responses from Americans. Worchester’s company expanded its wreath donation across the nation, and with the help of numerous military and veteran organizations, 230 military cemeteries held simultaneous ceremonies. 

In 2007, Wreaths Across America was created to carry on the work Worchester started. Last year, more than 1.2 million wreaths were distributed at nearly 1,200 cemeteries. Mountain Home received 4,100 wreaths in 2016. Organizations hope to increase that significantly this year.

Each year, more organizations become involved with the effort and there are multiple ways to purchase a wreath. Wreaths are $15 each and can be purchased from WAA directly or from any of these local organizations:

Forms are also available at www.wreathsacrossamerica.org for donations. In addition to Mountain Home National Cemetery, the Andrew Johnson National Cemetery, 121 Monument Ave. Greeneville, also will participate in Wreaths Across America.

Proceeds from wreath sales are used as group fundraisers, but the WAA website details how the $15 from each wreath is distributed.

“When you donate to Wreaths Across America, your money sponsors a wreath, the first 86 cents of every dollar donated goes toward wreath sponsorships, shipping costs not covered by our trucking partners, and fundraising group paybacks. WAA operates on the remaining margin, keeping overhead low and paying wages to just eight full-time employees. Our executive director and chairman take zero salary and are 100 percent committed to the mission.”

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