Watch: What is Wreaths Across America?
Wreaths Across America (WAA) is a national non-profit best known for placing wreaths every December at Arlington National Cemetery. However, as of 2022, the nonprofit annually places more than 2.4 million sponsored veterans’ wreaths at over 3,500 participating locations throughout the United States and abroad while offering various yearlong programs focused on the mission to remember the fallen, honor those who serve and teach the next generation the value of freedom.
However, for Vietnam veteran and Board Chairman, Wayne Hanson, it is a mission that was made personal after hearing four simple words.
“I remember my wife and I were placing the last wreath in a row at Arlington – this is before we had enough sponsorships for all the headstones to receive one – and a man approached me and asked me what we were doing. I explained who we were and why we were there. He looked at me with tears in his eyes and asked, ‘What about my son?’”
Many years later, Hanson says he is reminded of this man, and his son, every day and it motivates him to work harder to gain the awareness and understanding needed for the program, so that he “never has to answer that question again.”
For volunteers across the country, Wreaths Across America has special meaning, and the mission continues to bring together new people each year. Since 2005, when the iconic photo first surfaced on the internet of headstones covered in snow, honored with a simple balsam wreath and red bow – millions of people have joined in the mission. The program has spread to all 50 states, including Puerto Rico and Guam.
In 2018, the mission was brought overseas to Normandy, and to Luxemburg and The Netherlands in 2019, to honor our brave U.S. men and woman laid to rest where they fell.
This endeavor is possible thanks to dedicated volunteers, supporters, donors, first responders, and the generosity of the trucking industry, and businesses wanting to support their communities. Wreaths Across America’s Executive Director Karen Worcester recalls, “In 2020, a volunteer truck-driver who has driven the same route for many years, saw one of his usual participating cemeteries closed. He stopped his truck and removed the veteran’s wreath we had given him for his truck grill and hung it on the gates of that cemetery. He honored those veterans in his own way that day. This illustrates the commitment our volunteers have to this program.”
When a volunteer places a wreath on a service member’s headstone, they are encouraged to say that person’s name out loud, to keep their memory alive.
You can find a participating location near you by clicking here and typing in your town and/or state to find a local participating cemetery near you to support. Every $15 received sponsors a veteran’s wreath for placement.