Wreaths Across America grows every year powered by patriotic citizens who make up one of the largest volunteer forces known to any nonprofit organization. Each of these individuals is genuine in their motivation to serve the mission to remember, honor, and teach. These volunteers understand the importance of history and the contributions of the men and women who came before us willing to answer our nation's call to duty.
Our volunteers are engaged as the #CountDowntoWreathDay is on and they're making very personal connections with the lives of our hometown heroes to be sure no one is forgotten.
Wreaths Across America volunteer Luann Waters would like to introduce you to Thomas Franklin Dillard one of her hometown heroes laid to rest with over 500 other veterans in Oaklawn Cemetery in Wynnewood, Oklahoma.
Luann learned of Thomas' history when her local paper, the Wynnewood Gazette, ran an article back in June. The article was written in 1945 by Thomas Dillard who served in World War II and was taken prisoner by the Germans during the Battle of the Bulge.
Luann tells us, Thomas' wife Ruby Ella is still living and grateful her husband's valor and sacrifice is honored annually with a veterans remembrance wreath.
Luann met Thomas Dillard before he passed away in 2011 and says in addition to being a military veteran who received the Purple Heart and Bronze Star, Thomas was an accomplished artist and Ruby Ella still has the very first painting Thomas did for her.
"To see what the symbolism of that fresh wreath means to Ruby and other family members is what motivates me," Luann explains.
It's also Luann's desire to preserve history to teach younger generations the value of our freedoms that keep her involved. As she and other volunteers research the stories behind those fallen hometown heroes, the information is being shared with the cemeteries and the historical society.
"Our historical society had a veterans exhibit that was up for about ten years and we took it down last year in hopes of revising it to include this new research information."
Luann started her volunteer efforts with Wreaths Across America in 2015 after hearing about it from a friend who was participating with her DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) group. She's working to sponsor wreaths to cover all of the known heroes laid to rest at Oaklawn and encouraging others to join her efforts in researching veterans who may be buried there but are currently unknown to them.
"There are two other cemeteries in Wynnewood, and a woman has reached out to me to find out more about Wreaths Across America, and she's starting to research as well and reaching out to her church to get involved in sponsoring veterans remembrance wreaths," Luann explains.
It's just that kind of grassroots energy and commitment to saying their names that expands the Wreaths Across America mission to remember of fallen, honor those who serve and teach younger generations the value of freedom.
Luann says last year they were successful in getting more wreaths sponsored than the first year she started and that in itself has been a source of encouragement as she works to cover veterans headstones this year.
Luann and all of our remarkable volunteers are counting down to National Wreaths Across America Day, Saturday, December 16, 2017.
You can follow our Countdown To Wreath Day web shows on FaceBook and tune in to Wreaths Across America Radio at 10:00AM Eastern, Monday Through Friday for our special feature series: 100 Reasons Why We Remember, Honor and Teach; Count Down to Wreath Day.
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.