"We appreciate the families and visitors who take time to honor and remember those who are laid to rest at our nation’s most hallowed ground."
Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy announces Wreaths Across America, a nonprofit that places wreaths on headstones of fallen service members during the holidays, will proceed despite an earlier, sudden cancellation.
- The backstory: Arlington National Cemetery suddenly announced the cancellation of the charity organization’s regular scheduled event, stating it would be “closed to volunteers” due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Swift reaction followed, including from the President, and in 24 hours Arlington reversed its decision.
- Wreaths Across America adorns military headstones with wreaths for the holidays.
- Last year, the organization placed more than 2 million wreaths, including 250,000+ at Arlington, one of the most prominent military cemeteries in America.
- Wreaths aren’t just placed at Arlington but 2500 locations total across all 50 states.
- 2 million volunteers placed the wreaths – one-third of them children.
- The Army has “supervised” Arlington since 1861.
- 200 acres of the one-time plantation of Robert E. Lee was determined as the cemetery ~ Here’s some historical background.
- “The grounds are undulating, handsomely adorned, and in very respect admirably fitted for the sacred purpose to which they have been dedicated. The people of the entire nation will one day, not very far distant, heartily thank the initiators of this movement….” 1864, when leaders decided to map out the land for a cemetery, during the Civil War.
- Here’s the prologue to its creation: “In the spring of 1864, as the Civil War entered its third year, the Union Army began an offensive designed to finally crush the Confederate Army. As fighting intensified, Washington hospitals—in many cases, converted churches, public halls, or governmental buildings—were flooded with wounded soldiers, brought up the Potomac from battlefields in Virginia and elsewhere.Describing the hospitals, Washington journalist Noah Brooks wrote: “Maimed and wounded…. arrived by hundreds as long as the waves of sorrow came streaming back from the fields of slaughter…. They came groping, hobbling, and faltering, so faint and so longing for rest that one’s heart bled at the piteous sight.” As many of these men died, cemeteries in the city and surrounding areas filled to capacity.”
- The oldest grave at Arlington honors Private William Christman, from the 67th Pennsylvania. Laid to rest on May 13, 1864.
- The pandemic has presented obstacles to executing the goal of Wreaths Across America to lay wreaths on as many headstones as last year – smaller groups of volunteers may have to support the mission of “remember, honor and teach.” Different locations have varying restrictions of how volunteers can participate.”