Wreaths Across America Honors Soldiers In St. Joseph County
The holiday season can be a joyous time for the public. It’s a time when we gather around with our families and celebrate being together. But for some military families, it can be a reminder of the loved ones they’re missing. December 14th, 2019 was National Wreaths Across America Day. On this day, we honor local soldiers who have lost their lives in battle by placing wreaths on their graves. They start the ceremony by reading passages about why the ceremony takes place and how they are honoring. The volunteers are each assigned a name and lined up until their soldier’s name is called. Once they are called, the story of the fallen hero will be told, and the volunteer will place their wreath on the soldier’s grave.
The organization began in 1992 after the Worchester Wreath Company found themselves with a surplus of wreaths. Morill Worchester remembered his time in Arlington Cemetary and decided to send those wreaths to less-visited areas of the cemetery. This ceremony went on for years until 2005 when a photo of the graves and wreaths went viral. After receiving national attention, Thousands of people sent in requests to help volunteer at Arlington and establish the same type of program in their own cemeteries. Worchester decided to send seven wreaths to each state. One for every branch of the military and some for the POW/MIAs. The wreaths making there way to the Arlington Cemetary started what is now the “Veterans Honor Parade” which travels down the East Coast starting in early December.
After 2008, 300 locations hosted the wreath ceremony in all states and select overseas cemeteries. 60,000 volunteers participated and 1,000 wreaths were laid. It was in that year that December 14th was dubbed “Wreaths Across America Day.” The organization pushes the message to “Remember, Honor, and Teach” the public about the people who sacrificed their lives for their country. They want to teach the youth about valuing their freedoms, and the importance of the people that decided to protect those freedoms. Every year the wreath-laying is held on the second or third Saturday of December. The St. Joseph Catholic Cemetary and Fariview Cemetary were the hosts for Mishawaka’s ceremonies. Family members of soldiers gathered to remember their loved ones, leaving a single wreath on their headstone.