Every December on National Wreaths Across America Day, the national group’s mission, to Remember, Honor and Teach is carried out by coordinating wreath-laying ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery, as well as over 1,200 additional locations in all 50 U.S. states, at sea, and abroad.
In 2017 those efforts are coming to Memphis.
On December 16, 2017, Wreaths Across America will be at Arlington National Cemetery to Remember and Honor our veterans through the laying of Remembrance wreaths on the graves of our country’s fallen heroes and the act of saying the name of each and every veteran aloud.
On that same day, volunteers will be following suit at the Memphis Cemetery.
One of the premises of the movement is “A person dies twice: once when they take their final breath, and later, the last time their name is spoken.”
“We are not here to ‘decorate graves,’ said Karen Worcester, Executive Director of Wreaths Across America. “We’re here to remember not their deaths, but their lives. When we lay wreaths on veterans’ graves, we say their names.”
Volunteers in the program are encouraged, when they place a wreath on a veteran’s grave, to say that veteran’s name aloud, and take a moment to thank them for their service to our country.
“It’s a small act that goes a long way toward keeping the memory of our veterans alive,” said Worcester.
The national movement began back in the early 1990s when a company’s surplus wreaths were first placed at Arlington National Cemetery. Interest grew from that event and finally in 2007 Wreaths Across America was officially formed with the mission to Remember, Honor and Teach.
Over the years, Wreaths Across America has become truly that, with more than 1,200 locations participating.
On National Wreaths Across America Day each December, volunteers place wreaths on individual veterans’ graves in cemeteries and at memorials across the U.S., with ceremonies at sea, and at each of the national cemeteries on foreign soil.
Ron Henkenius of Memphis Funeral Home has launched local efforts to include Memphis Cemetery this year.
“According to our records there are a total of 401 veterans buried at Memphis Cemetery,” said Henkenius.
Earlier this month he began an advertising campaign to seek donations for wreaths.
“For every two wreaths we purchase, we receive a third free,” he said.
But even with that generous gift, funds will need to be generated to purchase more than 260 wreaths to insure every veteran is properly honored. The wreaths cost $15.
“We have had several ordered, but we have not reached that goal,” he said. “The deadline to order is November 21st.”
The project is receiving a huge boost from the staff and students at Scotland County R-I.
Elementary School Guidance Councilor Dani Fromm had a special “Tiger Nation” t-shirt designed by Karri Feeney. Nearly 400 shirts were sold, with the proceeds earmarked for the wreath project. Fromm said nearly $1,200 was raised to help support the event.
In addition to funding, local organizers are seeking volunteers to help place the wreaths at the gravesites.
A special ceremony will be held at the Scotland County R-I High School gymnasium at 11 a.m. on December 16th to mark National Wreaths Across America Day, prior to the wreaths being placed at the cemetery.