After what seemed to be an overly ambitious goal that was falling short just days before the ceremony, Wreaths Across America has done it. Nearly 50,000 volunteers laid a wreath on all 230,000 gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery on Saturday, Dec. 13.
“It was incredible. I have never seen anything like it,” WAA spokesperson Amber Caron told Land Line.
This year’s milestone is an increase of 87,000 wreaths at Arlington from last year. On Dec. 3, Caron expected that only 165,000 of the 230,000 gravestones would receive a wreath.
With less than two weeks to go, Caron said they would need a corporation or two to step in with a generous donation to meet their goal. With only 24 hours left before the volunteer deadline, Marli Riggs of Truckload Carriers Associaton said that 11 full loads were still in need of a carrier or owner-operator to pick up.
Despite falling short of donations and volunteers in the days leading to the ceremony, people across the country stepped up to the plate and hit a homerun, allowing WAA to walk off with a huge victory. Maine First Lady Ann LePage led the charge when she challenged WAA founder Morrill Worcester to match every incoming $15 donation. Through national media appearances, LePage garnered enough support to allow WAA to hit their goal with only one day to spare.
In addition to the Arlington ceremony, volunteers across the country held their own local services. A total of 1,015 locations participated to lay 700,000 wreaths.
Now that WAA has raised the bar by placing a wreath on every grave at Arlington, the question is “Where do they go from here?”
“Every veteran who has sacrificed deserves to be honored,” Caron told Land Line, “Because it’s the teaching part of the mission that we really feel strongly about. The hope is if kids understand what the sacrifice means and the value these veterans bring to us as Americans, someday it won’t be a problem to honor all of these veterans.”
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