BREMERTON, Wash. (NNS) — More than 50 service members and volunteers laid wreaths on the gravestones of veterans in recognition of National Wreaths Across America Day at Ivy Green Cemetery in Bremerton, Wash., Dec. 14.
Wreaths Across America began in 1992 under the leadership of Morrill Worcester, owner of Worcester Wreath Company, after having a surplus of wreaths he realized he had the opportunity to honor our country’s veterans in Arlington National Cemetery by laying wreaths on their graves.
“It’s an honor to be out here,” said Joey Price, location leader for Wreaths Across America, Navy Wives Clubs of America Kitsap #46. “We need to remember those who gave their life, remember those serving, the families that stay behind and teach our children that freedom isn’t free.”
Worcester’s cause quickly gained volunteers and followers and in 2005 the project received national attention when, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, a photo of wreaths laid upon the headstones were covered in snow at Arlington National Cemetery spread across the internet.
Unable to keep up with the demand for wreaths, Worcester began donating seven wreaths to each state, one for each military branch along with one for POW/MIAs.
“It’s good to remember the people who went before us,” said John Langkamp, a retired chief petty officer. “It’s important to honor those that serve and those who gave their life.”
Wreaths Across America now includes more than 1,000 local fundraising groups in all 50 states representing more than 800 cemeteries, military memorials and at national veterans’ cemeteries on foreign soil.
The laying of the ceremonial wreaths at all locations coincides with the laying of the ceremonial wreath upon the “Tomb of the Unknowns” at Arlington National Cemetery, also called “Tomb of the Unknown Soldier”, with every location holding a moment of silence together in remembrance of those lost.
“Wreaths are being placed on the gravestones of America’s ‘best’ because, in many cases, they gave the ultimate sacrifice for the preservation of this homeland and its ideals,” said Capt. Thomas Zwolfer, Naval Base Kitsap commanding officer. “They are, and were, service members who took an oath, and believed in that oath, lived that oath, and in many legacy families, passed on the oath.”
“The veterans that lay here paved the way for us,” said Interior Communications Electrician 1st Class (SW/IDW) Jim Duffy, assigned to the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74). “We should give them same honor they gave us.”
In 2012, more than 400,000 wreaths were placed with the assistance of more than 80 volunteer trucking companies and drivers helping to deliver the wreaths. It also marked the placing of the one-millionth wreath since 1992.