Individuals throughout the country who unite in common cause to remember, honor and teach power Wreaths Across America. The sense of patriotic duty and a genuine desire to keep our nation's history a piece of the present get people involved in the mission.
Our volunteers are remarkable and selfless in their work throughout the year to remember our fallen heroes, not just in December leading up to National Wreaths Across America Day. Wreaths Across America represents volunteer community service that's personal on many levels.
Dr. Julie Decker is an assistant teaching professor of Nursing at Penn State University, College of Nursing at the Altoona campus.
During her doctoral work with female veterans, Julie bonded with a "powerful and wonderful group of women." Even though she has never served in the military, the women took Julie in and "adopted" her as one of their veteran sisters. Each year these women participate in National Wreath Day at Arlington National Cemetery, and they invited Julie to go with them just a few years ago.
"The rest, as they say, is history," Julie shares. "I was immensely moved by these women to see their dedication to honoring their military comrades. Upon seeing the masses of people at Arlington, it became a very emotional trip for me."
Julie says it was overwhelming to visit "Nurses Hill" in Section 21.
"I went up to that hill and looked at all of those graves of my colleagues who have gone before me. The greatest spark of emotion for me at Arlington National Cemetery was having the profound honor of laying the first wreath in that section on the grave of Col. Ruby Bradley, one of my great nursing heroes." Bradley was one of the 77 nurses held captive by the Japanese during World War II. She went on to become one of the most highly decorated females in the U.S. military.
Julie is quick to point out many of the techniques still used today by nurses, such as triaging patients were developed as far back as the Civil War and beyond. Julie shares this valued history of the contributions of military nurses as part of her undergraduate teaching curricula. She says a frequent reaction among young nursing students is, "I had no idea what military nurses did."
Throughout our history, military nurses, both male and female, have endured the same physical and psychological stressors in combat and captivity as the very soldiers they've treated from the battlefield. Nurses have sheltered and calmed the ill and wounded, friend or foe, and have restored humanity to a world of chaos. Many a young soldier far away from home has whispered with their dying breath final wishes and message of love for family to a military nurse.
Julie underscores that fact by sharing the story of 1Lt Sharon Lane whose body was found lying in protection over her Vietnamese patient in an American POW camp during the Vietnam War.
Julie is appreciative of the teachings of her parents, which she has handed down to her children.
"Growing up, my father had friends who were in Vietnam, and one of the greatest lessons they taught us was you always support your military because they're there at a minute's call to protect you," Julie explains. "Money was tight for us but starting in October with every payday we would buy things like lifesavers and beef jerky and things like that. Closer to Thanksgiving we sent a box to my father's friends serving. It really sparked something in me, and I've never forgotten that. My husband and I have instilled the same sense of commitment to honor our military in our children. That's why we love Wreaths Across America."
Julie strongly believes in the valor of the nursing profession and in the Wreaths Across America mission that she sees as a powerful force for good.
"Military members are our protectors," Julie expresses. "They must be honored during their life as well as in their death. Those men and women who have so honorably served this country should and must have their names spoken, and their legacy discussed whether it's a Private on up to a four-star General. These people have signed that blank check to defend our country and to protect us from our enemies both foreign and domestic. For that, we as a country must come together, and we must remember those who have passed away in service to their country. As Calvin Coolidge said, 'a country who forgets her defenders will soon herself be forgotten' and we owe a huge debt of gratitude to veterans both living and deceased."
Teaching about military history comes naturally to Julie and her family. She and her family have been living historians since her children were young. Her husband portrays Major John Britton, a Civil War surgeon; her daughter has moved up from the Civil War to portraying a WWII WAC and her son is also involved in WWII living history.
These are some of her family's living history photos Julie has shared with Wreaths Across America.
Thank you, Julie, for sharing your passion for the nursing profession and the Wreaths Across America mission to remember, honor and teach.
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."