It's hard to believe there are less than 100 days until National Wreaths Across America Day Saturday, December 16, 2017.
As time whizzes by, millions of dedicated, patriotic volunteers across this great nation are working to sponsor veterans' remembrance wreaths to honor our nation's fallen heroes. As they do Wreaths Across America is sharing the stories of our volunteers and the work they're doing in their communities to say their names in its #CountDown to Wreath Day 2017.
The motivation to volunteer is as unique as the individual yet many fall into one particular group. It's a group no one would never aspire to join. Wreaths Across America and its extended family of volunteers believe this group of men and women is one to be honored and supported.
In 2017, Sue Pollard is the acting National President of the AGSM organization, and like Candy, her ultimate sacrifice to our nation was the life of her son.
When our country was attacked on September 11, 2001, Justin was just 19 years old. Sue says he enlisted immediately and after basic training celebrated his 21st birthday in the Middle East.
"My story is a little different because my son Justin was killed in a non-combat related friendly fire incident," Sue explains. " It was an accident. A rifle that was being inspected was on burst instead of safety so when it was set down three rounds went off, and one of them killed Justin. He died in Iraq on December 30, 2003."
Justin is buried at Pacific View Cemetery in Corona del Mar, California. According to the Associated Press, his funeral was attended by more than 500 people during which the Pastor of Saddleback Church, Bob Baker, stated, "because of his death, Veterans Day will forever be different for everyone who knew Pollard. The concept of liberty takes on a new meaning because we now understand the price,” he said.
It's around the holidays when Sue and other Gold Star families feel the pain of their loss and separation from their loved ones the most.
Just as the founder of American Gold Star Mothers Grace Darling Seibold healed her broken heart by giving back to veterans' causes, Sue is doing the same.
"This year, I've asked the Gold Star Mothers to 'share Grace' because it will be the 90th anniversary of the founding of the organization at my convention in 2018," Sue explains. "I also explain Grace is what we need to give to each other. We're just Moms who serve through the organization to make sure that our children's names and lives are not forgotten. I hope I can bring a positive perspective to show others there is hope after our children die and we have support for others. Gold Star mothers are here for each other."
Sue has been involved with Wreaths Across America since joining the national Board for AGSM, and she traveled on the Annual Wreath Escort to Arlington National Cemetery in 2015.
"I was amazed by that experience," shares Sue. "I live in California, and you're more patriotic on the East Coast it seems compared to the West Coast. To see the children come out to greet us waving flags, and they'd sing for us. It was incredible. I met so many people that I admire along the way like Karen and Morrill."
Sue says she and the American Gold Star Mothers organization is committed to working with Wreaths Across America for the greater good of the military, our veterans, and their families as we remember, honor and teach.
Tune in to Wreaths Across America radio as we feature our Countdown to Wreath Day stories at 10:00 AM Eastern, Monday-Friday.
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.
"History can be studied in many ways, and it's important to do so for a contextual understanding of the journey taken by an individual, organization, or nation."
"It's heart-wrenching to see that and participate in that, Rick shares. "To see all the mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunts, and uncles waiting there to have a wreath to place on their family member's headstone, there are just no words for it, none."