The mission of Wreaths Across America is to remember, honor, and teach and we’re sharing some of the precious moments Holocaust Survivor Luna Kaufman has spent with us reminiscing about some of her life’s stories and grand accomplishments. Luna's Life of Tolerance, Understanding, and Peace; A Gift to Us All will be presented over the coming months in featured blog posts. Luna and World War II liberator Thurman Pace will remember their experiences of World War II and the Holocaust together. We'll share Luna's memories of her work with the Liberation Monument in honor of its creator Natan Rapoport and WW II Liberators, and her efforts to foster greater understanding and peace, particularly in Jewish-Christian relations.
“Freedom is a fragile thing and is never more than one generation away from extinction. It is not ours by inheritance; it must be fought for and defended constantly by each generation, for it comes only once to a people. Those who have known freedom and then lost it have never known it again.” ~ Gov. Ronald Reagan-January 5, 1967
The mission of Wreaths Across America is to remember our fallen heroes, honor those who serve and teach younger generations the value of freedom. That last mission objective may be the most difficult goal to achieve.
Today, in a pop-culture society driven by instant communication, a barrage of media content with mixed messages, and a constant desire for entertainment, it is a challenge to compete for the attention of younger generations. It’s an even tougher sell when information to impart from lessons learned happened over seventy-five years ago.
A history lesson conjures up thoughts of boredom and irrelevance. After all, that was “back then,” not today. Even worse, to fully grasp the trials and tribulations of our nation’s founding and defense of freedom requires understanding not just of historical facts but ideologies as well, both political and religious.
Until freedom is taken away what frame of reference would younger generations, have today for appreciating its value and comprehending the crushing personal sacrifices made over the course of our history to protect “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”? Until challenged by death the precious and ephemeral gift of life is often not fully appreciated.
This nation’s future of peace, unity, and “justice for all” requires knowledge and understanding of our past conflicts, how they got started, how they escalated and how they are resolved.
Rudyard Kipling once wrote, “If history were told in the form of stories it would never be forgotten.”
This is the story of one Holocaust survivor and her life-long mission to foster a culture of peace through education, advocacy, and mutual respect.
Luna Kaufman knows first hand the heartache and despair that is war. At just twelve years old she was victimized by and witnessed the barbaric atrocities of which humankind is capable when driven by blind hatred and ignorance. Luna Kaufman is a survivor of the Holocaust of World War II, yet she is not a bitter woman. Quite the opposite in fact. Luna has a zeal for living which is a testament that people have a choice as to how they respond to influences in their lives, good and bad.
For over seventy-five years, Luna has been exacting her revenge against the injustices she and millions of others suffered by living her life to its fullest and giving back through community service and lessons of tolerance and respect.
It would be a complete travesty of justice should we forget the life and experiences of Luna Kaufman. Luna authored her memoirs in the book called, Luna’s Life: A Journey of Forgiveness and Triumph published in 2009.
Wreaths Across America met this charismatic woman in 2015 during the Annual Wreath Escort to Arlington National Cemetery. There we saw the powerful Liberation Monument in Liberty State Park, New Jersey and heard a portion of her story.
Luna admits that today her memories of the war and the loss of her family and millions of others in Nazi concentration camps seem like science fiction, but she’s quick to caution it’s a story that must never be forgotten to avoid the brutality and bloodshed of tyranny in the future. She also reminds us that citizens of other countries have suffered genocide since WW II.
In 2016, Luna joined Wreaths Across America in Maine for a Stem to Stone tree-tagging dedication where she remembered her family members killed during the Holocaust and honored WW II liberators.
Luna explains that before the rise of Hitler Germany was the America of Europe; democratic and liberal. She and her family were among the nine million Jews who lived in European countries that would wind up being invaded and occupied as the Nazis carried out their state-sponsored extermination of the population.
In this video and those that will follow Luna shares her memories of how her family was initially separated when the war broke out and of her fierce determination to take care of her Mother.
As part of the process of humiliation and torture used to break their will, the Nazis never spoke their names. They were identified only as a number; Luna was 648, and her Mother was 255. Luna never had her number tattooed on her arm as did many of the concentration camp victims. Instead, Luna kept her prison dress so she would always have physical proof that she was a "child of the Holocaust."
***This video contains some graphic images***
Wreaths Across America will share more of Luna's story including a visit we facilitated with World War II liberator Thurman Pace.
Guided by an infrangible faith when the supply of lifejackets ran out they gave up their own to save the lives of others.
"I went up to that hill and looked at all of those graves of my colleagues who have gone before me.
Volunteers planning to assist in removing wreaths are asked to attend a short briefing at the McClellan Gate at 8:30 a.m. and to follow these guidelines.
As witnessed through this video, the volunteer commitment of patriotic citizens is a year-round effort that culminates in a remarkable day of unity, friendship, and healing.
Some give the ultimate sacrifice of a loved one and are often left in sorrow to wonder if other citizens remember or appreciate what they gave up for liberty and justice for all.
Wreaths Across America knows some of the finest musicians out there are members of our military performance groups. Each month, we like to feature the musical works of those talented individuals.
Each live, balsam remembrance wreath is a gift of respect and appreciation, donated by a private citizen or organization and placed on the graves by volunteers as a small gesture of gratitude for the freedoms Americans enjoy.
In just a few days, Paulette and her fellow Troop Greeters will welcome veterans, Gold Star families, and other traveling dignitaries who are part of the Annual Wreath Escort to Arlington National Cemetery.
Grand Marshals – Vietnam Medal of Honor Recipient, Colonel Roger Donlon, U.S. Army Special Forces (Retired) and his wife, Norma, a Vietnam-era Gold Star wife – will lead the caravan as it travels down the East Coast stopping at schools, memorials, and other locations along the way.
Driver Pat Wortham is an independent contractor for Dart Transit and a member of the Wreaths Across America honor fleet. He also has a rich history of military service in his family.
The holidays are traditionally celebrated with music so tune into WAA Radio throughout the holidays to hear musical Season's Greetings from some of the finest musicians in America!
"I was only 21 at the time, and we didn't know what we had come upon. The conditions were horrible, and there were all those people in striped pajamas."
"This contribution, like the one we made last year, will help provide an opportunity for professional drivers to transport wreaths across the United States.
Rhonda says she's experienced the "power of the wreath" watching people react to her daughter's presentations.
The telegram from the Department of War said that Albert and two other men had been shot down near Wollseifen, Germany, on Dec. 12, and that they had been missing since.
Yes! There's still time to sponsor a veterans' remembrance wreath in time for National Wreaths Across America Day.
"We were replacements," explained Charles. "My best friend Luke Moore and I went over together. He was a First scout, and I was a Second scout. We were taking a town when we were shot at by a sniper..."
Wreaths Across America is forever grateful for the thousands of volunteers who place veterans' remembrance wreaths on the headstones of our fallen as they say their names aloud every December. Remember, we are guests on the hallowed grounds of participating cemeteries and we ask that you honor their rules and regulations. If you're volunteering at Arlington this year, here's what you need to know.
Wreaths Across America announces open loads available as the Honor Fleet expands to transport America's Respect.
"I remember back then when we were told several times Vincent wouldn't make it through the night and I went to the chapel and said, 'God is there anything I can do to change your mind? He's our only son."
"One thing I will never forget is getting into Arlington and it was a cold, rainy day with freezing rain, and I remember looking around at all the empty headstones thinking to myself oh my God how are we going to do this."
"As part of our Wreaths Across America project, we work with the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts, the Explorers, Young Marines, and sometimes 4H members," Mike explains. "We try to engage our groups the way that I think the founder of Wreaths Across America intended."
The Civil Air Patrol Cadets meant the world to Rick. For three years he accompanied cadets to Arlington National Cemetery and assisted with laying wreaths at the cemetery. This trip changed the lives of many cadets.
"It was so moving coming down I95 because people were waving flags, honking their horns, giving us thumbs up, and saluting us."
"We have a dedicated group of compassionate people who come together to help military veterans," Rebecca explains. "If someone reaches out to us and says 'hey we need help getting a veteran's roof shingled' then we try to get it done."
“Every year we have so many professional drivers, bikers, police officers and other first responders, ask us how they can get involved, even if they can’t transport wreaths,” said Karen Worcester, executive director, Wreaths Across America.
"There are a lot of similarities between the military and the trucking industry," Rob explains. "I think that's why you see a lot of veterans successful as truck drivers."
Johnny Vet: Freedom Isn’t Free is a dynamic and inspirational musical journey of the men and women who have fought the nation’s wars and how those same men and women, as veterans, have helped to shape the nation and its destiny.