Honoring Veterans During the Holidays

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Many national and regional cemeteries pay special tribute to Veteran grave sites during the Holidays. Over the past few years several of our National Military Cemeteries have created a variety of programs from holding a special Military Honor Guard ceremony to a new national program called Wreaths Across America. These efforts acknowledge all veterans regardless how far away these grave site are from family. In 2017 alone, Wreaths Across America and its national network of volunteers laid over 1.5 million veterans’ wreaths at 1,433 locations in all 50 U.S. states, at sea and abroad.

One sad experience almost all military members feel is that first year away from families during Christmas and the holidays. After veterans pass away they are honored on Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day and some select other times, but many are not acknowledged at the most family time of the year, the holidays.

Pictured above are Christmas-season graves at Arlington National Cemetery, the final resting place of men and women who served the United States in the military and in the government. Every December since 1992, volunteers have laid wreaths donated by the Worcester Wreath Company of Harrington, Maine, at the headstones of thousands of America’s honored dead from various wars.

In 2007, the Worcester family, along with veterans and other groups and individuals who had helped with their annual Christmas wreath ceremony in Arlington, formed Wreaths Across America, a non-profit organization, to continue and expand the effort to place memorial wreaths at more than 230 State and National Cemeteries and Veterans Monuments across the United States. This project receives no government funding, with the cost of the program being paid for by individual wreath sponsors and corporate donors. (If you go to their website, you can sponsor a wreath.)

The Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery lies in the northwestern area of the former Joliet Army Ammunition Plant, approximately 50 miles south of Chicago. Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery is named after the 16th President of the United States and founder of the National Cemeteries. In the midst of the Civil War, on July 17, 1862, President Lincoln’s signature enacted the law authorizing the establishment of national cemeteries “… for the soldiers who die in the service of the country.” During the Civil War there were 14 national cemeteries opened pursuant of this legislation. President Lincoln’s legacy is especially important to the people of Illinois, where he worked and lived.

The American Cemetery in Normandy, France , dedicated in 1956 by President Dwight Eisenhower and French President Rene Coty, is one of 14 permanent WWII military cemeteries overseas. It includes 9,300 burials, and more than 1,500 Americans who were MIA, lost or buried at sea. Wreaths Across America recently got permission from the French government to ship the wreaths across the Atlantic and place them at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in Colleville-sur-Mer. Ceremonial wreaths will be placed on the five beaches where Allied soldiers landed at low tide. There is also several wreaths laid beach side for all the men who did not come out of the water that day (D-Day).

DeKalb County: Three years ago, local DeKalb veteran Michael Embrey received a phone call from a family that no longer lived in the DeKalb area asking if he would put a wreath of their veteran grandfather’s grave site. Taking it a step further, he gathered several local veterans and not only visited that grave site but placed a wreath at several DeKalb County cemeteries. A local military veteran chaplain said a special prayer and taps was preformed to honor all veterans at each cemetery. The holidays are sad and lonely for these forgotten military grave sites.

NOTE: Please check with your local cemetery regarding leaving any wreaths or special items during the winter months.