Very few national nonprofit organizations can claim the number of committed volunteers across the country and overseas like Wreaths Across America can. Proud patriots from every walk of life come together for a common cause and step up to be sure that no hometown hero is ever forgotten. Wreaths Across America is proud of those individual citizens who motivate others to join them in the mission to remember, honor and teach.
We are humbled by the hundreds of thousands of people who get involved every year on National Wreaths Across America Day at Arlington National Cemetery and at over twelve hundred participating cemeteries in paying tribute to our veterans. One of those passionate and dedicated individuals is Ellen O'Neil Fuller.
Born at Bethesda Naval Hospital, Ellen is the oldest of five children raised by Captain Ray and Patricia O'Neil. Powered by respect for the military and a seemingly endless energy, Ellen inspires others to serve, and she's always quick to call attention to the efforts of others before her own.
Ellen first became involved with Wreaths Across America following the passing of her parents. Her father passed away in 2011 and was buried that September. While she was caring for her Mother, she and her family were moved by the kindness of a complete stranger that first December without him.
"I was so touched to see a wreath appear on his grave," Ellen explains. "After Mom had passed in January of 2012, we decided to find out who was responsible for placing that wreath and once we did we decided this is how we would celebrate Christmas as long as we were able."
Ellen today is the volunteer co-chair for multiple Wreaths Across America groups from the Family Council at Belvoir Woods (her parents' military retirement community) in Virginia to the Wreaths Across America-College Station Aggie Field of Honor, the Texas State Cemetery in Austin, and the U.S. Air Force Academy Cemetery in Colorado.
"It's my wonderful co-chairs who make this all possible."
When asked why she gives so much back through her volunteerism with Wreaths Across America Ellen answers, "saying their names is such a simple thing to do, but it means so much. I'm a good Navy Junior and the wife of a veteran, but even if I didn't have a military connection, it's just a way to humbly say 'thank you' for those who served, and more importantly to show their surviving family they're not forgotten."
Whether its bell ringing on Wall Street or television interviews explaining our take on the "Christmas in July" slogan, she is constantly on the go for Wreaths Across America. Ellen says her "attitude of gratitude" is built into her DNA crediting her parents' example.
In April, Ellen was honored by Wreaths Across America with the Remember Award given annually to a volunteer who goes above and beyond. She was excited to attend the awards banquet and was ready to head to D.C. when she was pressed into service for a family emergency and could not make the event.
Just as we did Nicole Pelletier, Judy Carlile, Charlotte Chism Waldrum and Diana Pitts Wreaths Across America gives Ellen Fuller a "high five" for exceptional volunteer efforts to remember the fallen, honor those who serve and teach younger generations the value of freedom.
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.
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.