National Wreaths Across America Day in December happens because of patriots like you who sponsor wreaths today to ensure no one is forgotten.
The handmade balsam fir wreath from Maine with its single red bow has come to symbolize patriotism, honor, and respect. The magic behind its circular shape and the fresh evergreen scent is its cathartic ability to unite and soothe. From stem to stone, the wreath you sponsor is a connection for the living that has a lasting and powerful impact on people's lives.
One of those very personal and intense connections happened last year between Angela Beason, a high school Math teacher in Central Arkansas, and a young student she'd never met. That student lost her stepdad during combat operations in Iraq.
"Through my husband's service and our involvement with the Arkansas Run for the Fallen we've done a lot over the past twenty years with Gold Star families but my teaching career and volunteer work never really intersected before," explained Angela. "On that first day of class I told the students a bit about myself, and I also talked about Tom Martin who graduated from Cabot High School where I teach. After class, a young lady by the name of Ariana Ramirez stayed behind and said she thought her stepdad was honored in the Run for the Fallen and I remembered her dad's name, Sgt. Alan Shaw. He served in the U.S. Army. From that point, Ariana and I developed a special bond. I learned she had lived previously with her Mom and Stepdad before he was KIA in 2007. She returned to Arkansas and had lost that connection with Gold Star families when she moved away from that military facility, so I invited her to attend other events throughout the year."
Ariana says the connection she has with Angela is a strong one for which she's grateful.
"My Mom used to be involved in Gold Star events, but when I moved I let all of that go and when I got to Cabot I didn't really have access to it because I didn't know where to go, "explains Ariana. "Mrs. Beason helped me connect and I've met other kids my age and have made some nice friendships. Because I'm a Gold Star child I get to do some cool things and get to meet great people. In fact, I met a World War II Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, and I did a project on him. It means so much to me but I can't really explain it," says Ariana.
She shared some bittersweet memories that she could recall of times spent with her stepdad. Ariana was just seven years old when the Army notified them of his death.
"When we went swimming, I remember a tattoo of Superman on his arm and when we floated he let us carry him in the water instead of him carrying us, and that made us feel strong. Deployments were hard when he left, but it was so good when he got back," Ariana recalls. "We were excited to be able to have video chats on Skype with him, but my Mom always knew something was up when he didn't call in."
Angela got involved as a Wreaths Across America volunteer several years ago during one of her husband's deployments to Afghanistan. In 2016, Angela had the honor of participating in the annual wreath escort to Arlington, and it was during that visit that she once again made a connection happen for Ariana.
Ariana's stepdad, Sgt. Alan Shaw was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery in 2007.
"I started walking toward Section 60 and reached Ariana through Facetime to give her an opportunity to see everything happening, and she walked with me every step of the way to her stepfather's grave. The wreath had already been placed, but I sat it up and fluffed up the ribbon while she had a chance to see it. It was such a special morning, and we both cried."
Ariana recalls the moment.
"It was really hard because I couldn't hug her. As soon as she put her hand on the wreath, I started to cry, and I could tell she was starting to tear up. After she hung up, I just cried because I was so happy someone actually showed me the wreath on his grave the day that it happened rather than with a picture later."
Before graduating this year, Ariana selected Angela for a Life Impact Diploma.
You can hear more from Angela and Ariana on Wreaths Across America Radio.
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.
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."