A Gold Star mom is using education to keep memories of fallen U.S. veterans, including her Marine son, alive year-round.
“As the proud Gold Star mother of Cpl. Daniel Lee Tatum, USMC, it is particularly important to me that people remember Daniel,” Cindy Tatum said. “He was a remarkable young man, and Wreaths Across America gives me great hope that he will continue to be remembered for generations to come.”
Primarily known for remembering fallen veterans by placing wreaths on National Wreaths Day, Wreaths Across America (WAA) does much more than that, Tatum says.
“Our mission to remember, honor and teach is conducted throughout the year,” she said. “We understand we have Veterans Day in the fall and Memorial Day in the spring, but our service members and veterans deserve — and sometimes need — our support year-round. At WAA we believe it’s our responsibility to invest in our living veterans so they may thrive in our communities.”
Tatum became involved with WAA as a volunteer; now, she serves as the organization’s education liaison/curriculum developer — reviewing its education program and providing lesson materials to help strengthen the “Teach” component of its mission.
WAA’s story begins back in 1992, when founder Morrill Worcester and retired Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe led an effort to place 5,000 wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery. It became an annual event, and WAA officially became a national nonprofit in 2007.
The following year, tens of thousands stepped up in a big way.
“Over 60,000 volunteers helped move the mission, placing 100,000 sponsored veterans’ wreaths on headstones at more than 100 participating locations,” Tatum said. “Recognizing the organization’s impact, the United States Congress unanimously voted to declare ‘National Wreaths Across America Day’ to be held annually on the second or third Saturday of December.”
The movement has only grown since then. Last year, Tatum said 3 million volunteers placed 2.7 million veterans’ wreaths in more than 3,700 participating locations across the United States and abroad.
Tatum explains that WAA believes in the words of British street artist Bansky, who once wrote, “They say you die twice. One time when you stop breathing and a second time when somebody says your name for the last time.”
So, when WAA volunteers across the country and abroad place a wreath on a veteran’s grave on National Wreaths Day, she added, they are encouraged to say that veteran’s name aloud.
The year-round impact of WAA wouldn’t be possible without its strong network of volunteers and family members.
“Individuals can become a part of the WAA family in many ways,” Tatum said. “They can volunteer to help place wreaths on National Wreaths Day, sponsor veterans’ wreaths, become a location coordinator, or help in the transportation of wreaths, just to name a few.”
Of note, she adds, is the significant number of youngsters who are involved each year; that’s thanks in no small part to WAA’s core mission.
“Over one third of the volunteers on National Wreaths Day are children,” Tatum said. “It’s powerful to witness young people go to Arlington on National Wreaths Day with their parents or as a part of a group and see them place a wreath so carefully on a veteran’s grave, then stand and say the name of that veteran.
At that point, you observe firsthand the mission of Wreaths Across America to remember-honor-teach come to fruition.”
This year, National Wreaths Across America Day will be held on Dec. 16. More than 2 million volunteers and supporters are expected to Remember, Honor and Teach at more than 4,000 participating locations in all 50 states, at sea and abroad. Visit Wreaths Across America to learn more.
This article is written by Bill Furbee.Read comments