American pride, patriotism, and sense of duty run deep in members of our nation's armed forces. Those traits are shared by their families too, and during deployments, they must summon great strength and courage to mask their fears and insecurities about their service member's safety while keeping the home front functional. That's especially true when children make up the military family.
It's a tremendous burden and Wreaths Across America is passionate about supporting military families as we expand throughout the country the mission to remember our fallen, honor those who serve, and teach younger generations the value of freedom.
One woman who has joined the growing number of Wreaths Across America volunteers knows more than most about the sacrifices made by military families, and she's Taya Kyle author and executive director of the Chris Kyle Frogg Foundation.
"The whole concept of the wreath is for the living," Taya shares. "It tells families that their loved one's sacrifice was not for nothing. The people in this country get it, and they remember. It's not that while your loved one is serving people get it and thank you, but it's that they remember you lost him. They'll remember years from now that you lost someone precious to you, and it was for all of us. That's a really big deal."
The precious gift Taya and her two children lost for all of us was U.S. Navy SEAL, Chief Christopher Kyle, also known as the most lethal sniper in U.S. history. American Sniper, written in 2012 by Chris and American Wife authored by Taya in 2015 after his death gives the reader a raw and realistic insight into the pain, suffering, and readjustments they experienced as a military family.
Taya says supporting military families in your community can take on many different forms and it's important to remember they will rarely ask directly for help because by nature and training they're accustomed to serving others and don't want to be a burden.
"It's tough to suggest ideas because families and deployment scenarios are all different, but to give you an idea while Chris was deployed, my neighbor showed his support in a unique and thoughtful way. He couldn't afford to pay for separate lawn services, so he had his lawn care company do his house one week and then mine the next week. It was an incredible gesture, and he just did it because he knew if he had asked me I would have said no," Taya admits. "It's those little day-to-day life things that most family members are drowning in when their loved one is deployed."
Military families, like law enforcement personnel also experience, and process a whole host of emotions and challenges most civilians would never consider, and as a result often feel a sense of isolation. Since Chris's death, Taya has devoted her time and energy raising their two children and working with military and first responder families.
"The divorce rate when we were in was at ninety-seven percent," Taya explains. "Imagine that, among men and women who believe in honor, ability, service, and something bigger than themselves. That tells you there are obstacles facing these couples they're not prepared for in this job of fighting evil. There are reasons why your spouse may not want to tell you about his or her day; they've seen and experienced the worst-of-the-worst and don't want to bring that home. Chris and I had a strong bond, and we talked about everything, but there were things he didn't tell me because he didn't want me to worry the next time he went out."
Taya says the best way to show appreciation and respect for military families is through simple gestures like the one Wreaths Across America's founder Morrill Worcester made back in 1992 when he laid the first hand-made balsam fir remembrance wreath on the headstone of a fallen hero in Arlington National Cemetery.
"Wreaths Across America and its supporters are showing the world that you love these service members and remember they were a cherished member of someone's family. It's powerful."
You can hear more from Taya Kyle on supporting military families and other inspirational stories for and about our veterans on WAA Radio.
Wreaths Across America announced that its Executive Director Karen Worcester and Founder Morrill Worcester were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor Society’s Patriot Award, the highest award the Society can bestow to an individual.
I was a Navy spouse for 12 years and during that time we lost over two dozen of our closest friends. Most of whom are buried at Arlington National Cemetery and Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego.
Photo Contest Winners Announced
Wreaths Across America chose the 2018 Mid-America Trucking Show (MATS) in Louisville, KY, from March 22-24 to debut its newly designed Traveling Education Exhibit. This 48-foot display trailer hooked to its Chevy truck was loaded with many “hands on” technology and interactive information about the program to help visitors learn about the mission to Remember, Honor, and Teach.
Chairman of the Board of Directors, Wayne Hanson was honored to be one of the Wreaths Across America team accompanying the exhibit, where one of the more memorable things he had the pleasure of doing was to say two words to some of those present…”Welcome Home!”
As the only fully-integrated recycling provider in Central Texas, TDS joined in the effort to remember, honor and teach by donating their services.
All of the 30 Medal of Honor Recipients in attendance during the four days of events were glad to have a chance to meet Morrill and Karen.
The goal of the S.W.A.T. training is to create a core "support group" for location and fundraising volunteers with more experienced leaders joining the ranks every year.
"If you're an American, you're proud to do it. I know it's probably one of the best things I've done every year."
Mission Matters with Karen Worcester is a new program heard only on Wednesdays on Wreaths Across America Radio. Here's the schedule of the shows coming up and a link to the station.
Anyone who really knows me knows that I am often a walking Wreaths Across America billboard. They will normally see me sporting a WAA-branded sweatshirt or t-shirt, my blue and green WAA wristband and my ever-present WAA baseball cap. I’m proud of my connection with WAA and love to promote what we do and why we do it.
That being said, I want to relate a recent encounter I had while standing in line at our local Social Security Administration (SSA) Office the other day.
Air Force Veteran*, Wayne Merritt, currently manages the Veterans Transportation Program based out of Wreaths Across America Headquarters in Maine. Monday thru Friday, Wayne travels to area towns in the Downeast region to pick up veterans and bring them to their doctors’ appointments. This is just one of the many free programs Wreaths Across America offers to veterans and their families.
Military children worry about their parent’s safety very day. These children face many challenges, frequent moves and lengthy separation due to trainings and deployments. They take on more responsibilities and worry about their parent every day.
"I really don't see it stopping, and we want people to tell us where they see it. Take pictures and videos when you check it out and share them with us on social media."
Debbie says she and the transportation team are excited about new and more efficient systems that will be in place for 2018 and beyond.
To come up with an accurate wreath count for sponsorships, great effort was taken to assure no one was forgotten.
As we approached, Morrill and I began to realize that here laid the body of a very important veteran that we had apparently overlooked for the past 26 years in our annual wreath placement.
The many stops along the way at schools, veterans organizations, police and fire stations were also overflowing with love and good wishes.
I want my daughter to grow up understanding what true heroes are and the sacrifices that have been made for us to live in a free country.
Complete strangers just moments before, together, Denny and Ella read the name on her grandfather's headstone and talked some about him while laying his wreath.
"When she explained to us what Wreaths Across America is and does, it was a no-brainer for me that we would get involved."
On behalf of her father Rod, Cindi shared her grandfather's words with the audience during the memorial service. You can hear her presentation and see other highlights from the service in this video.
These two quiet and humble individuals are a team dedicated to giving back to their nation. They educate others by sharing their experiences and lessons of love and sacrifice not just from the war but the other "battlefields of life."
To better serve our volunteers in 2018 and beyond, we're reorganizing and providing more tools to support their inspiring efforts.
"I witnessed a few of the boys laying an "in honor of" wreath. They did it with reverence."
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.