A group of volunteers plans to decorate thousands of graves at the Arlington National Cemetery with special holiday wreaths in honor of fallen service members.
“It's a beautiful sight to see those green fir wreaths with red ribbons against those white stones,” said Wayne Hanson of Wreaths across America, the group that organizes the decorating.
Volunteers have decorated various sections of the cemetery since 1992 in a yearly tradition. In 2010, the group raised enough money to decorate 24,000 headstones.
This year, for the very first time, they want to decorate every gravesite at the cemetery, which houses more than 220,000 headstones.
“In this time of year where traditions include exchanging gifts, the soldiers we honor today gave us gifts. They gave us the gifts of safety and security,” Hanson said.
Each wreath is handmade in Maine and shipped to Virginia, costing about $15 each. To reach their goal, the group will have to raise $2.5 million.
Holiday wreaths are being laid at the graves of U.S. service members at 600 sites around the globe.
“We feel it's our way of honoring those vets,” Hanson said. “because we feel they should never be forgotten.”
The wreath effort is driven by donations and volunteers. Through the organization’s website donors can sponsor a wreath for a specific service member buried at Arlington.