At Arlington Cemetery, saying 'Thank you,' one wreath at a time

A small wreath is the most important decoration that Ann Davis will put up this holiday.

Davis, whose father is a fallen World War II veteran, joined the more than 10,000 volunteers at Arlington National Cemetery today to place a single wreath at each headstone, as a way to honor and thank the fallen service men and women.

“I think we all start feeling sorry for ourselves about things and get all wrapped up in present and everything else,” Davis said today at Arlington National Cemetery, “You walk through here and you look through all the wreaths and you realize we wouldn’t be out buying presents if it weren’t for people like my dad.”

More than 100,000 hand-made wreaths were laid today – part of a twenty-year project by “Wreaths Across America,” first started by Morrill Worcester in 1992.

Worcester, who sells Christmas trees in Maine, one year had many left over trees that year. He decided then to put those extras to good use, turned them into wreaths, and donated the finished project to Arlington National Cemetery.

“A wreath is a symbol of respect and honor and victory and you know it has no beginning it has no end. It’s green and it never dies so to speak,” Worcester said today. “It’s good to remember the people who have given us the freedom we have. So I gotta think it’s making a difference in the country.

What started out small has now grown over the years. There are now more than 700 events across the country through “Wreaths Across America,” today, all placing the same simple wreaths at headstones of the fallen across the country.

“So many people have done so much for us. And they’re here. And it’s our way of giving back to those who have gone before us,” Gordon Sumner, a veteran but also a volunteer today, said.

The wreaths were delivered today in a three-mile long convoy of trucks packed to the brim. Their voyage started out in Maine last Sunday and after 26 side stops along the way pulled into Arlington this morning for the wreath-laying.

Vietnam Veteran Joe Tibbetts offered a slow salute at the headstone of a solider he did not know, but felt he needed to honor today with the delicate placement of his wreath.

“I felt something on my face and it was a tear,” Tibbetts said, “we’re giving a gift to those who gave everything to us.”

Many of the volunteers today had lost a member of their family and said that seeing the wreaths as visual representation of their family’s sacrifice brought much emotion, even many years after the death of their loved one.

Some said prayers through tears. Others joked over old memories. But all were grateful for the simple beauty of the small wreath with a big meaning.

“If Jessie could peer down from heaven he would say ‘sweet,’ that’s was one of his favorite words, “Janice Chance who lost her twenty-nine-year-old son in Afghanistan said today, “that’s the way that’s the way it should be – that people have not forgotten.”