Wreaths Across America has a mission to “remember, honor, and teach” by laying the festive circles at graves on every Dec. 16 in places that include the Arlington National Cemetery, as well as 1,200 other locations across the country, at sea and abroad.
The organization and event began in 1992, when the Worcester Wreath Co. in Maine donated and placed wreaths on the headstones of vets buried in Arlington.
The group now puts 10,000 wreaths on graves at Arlington each year.
“When you place a wreath and you take a moment, it just resonates with people,” Karen Worcester, the executive director of Wreaths Across America, told InsideEdition.com. “Within all of us, we’re thankful and grateful. In a world of such diversity, it’s so good to find something we all can agree on. It just has grown from there.”
She said that the organization is still “grassroots” and run by volunteers and there is no charge to participate in the project.
“If you want to bring Wreaths Across America to your local cemetery, we go anywhere that veterans are buried,” she said.
For Worcester, as well as many of the volunteers, the experience has had a lasting impact.
“It’s been life-altering for me. In 2007, when some of the Gold Star families wanted to make the journey with us — meeting those moms for the first time, I was really concerned with what to say,” she said. “It just hit me and I actually got crying and pulled over to the side of the road. As a mother, with a mother’s heart, I could go home and call each one of my children and they couldn’t.”
She said that the character displayed by the Gold Star families and the disposition of those who served is “an important lesson to be passed on to the next generation.”
Worcester added: “Men and women died for this country and to be here and live here, we should live with this country, and live for what it stands for. I’ll tell you, it’s pretty amazing that on Dec. 16, pretty close to the holidays — and a lot of us are frustrated, and hurried up and getting ready for that — but then to take that pause and go out to these cemeteries and let people know, who will have an empty seat at their holiday table, that we’ve got their backs.
"It will add a very special thing to your own holiday. You’ll gain more from it than you give.”
To learn more about Wreaths Across America and how to get involved, click here.