Wreaths Across America
Posted on November 29, 2018
Since 1890, the Daughters of the American Revolution has been committed to promoting historic preservation, education, and patriotism. Composed of women 18 and older who can trace and prove their lineage to a patriot of the American Revolution, the organization engages in national programs and initiatives throughout the year that serve veterans, pay respect to fallen soldiers, and even assist schools and provide scholarships, but few deliver a more powerful visual message than the annual Wreaths Across America program, honoring our lost heroes during the holiday season.
Informally created in 1992 when Maine wreath maker, Morrill Worcester, requested to lay his surplus of holiday wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery, it became an annual tradition that, through the power of the internet, exploded after an image of wreaths decorating headstones at Arlington went viral in 2005. It officially became the nonprofit Wreaths Across America in 2007. The program and its goal to “remember, honor, and teach” aligns perfectly with the fundamental objectives of the DAR, and chapters across the country embraced Wreaths Across America, supporting the sale and distribution of wreaths at cemeteries nationwide.
Locally, five cemeteries will be decorated with wreaths on December 15 through Wreaths Across America, including two national cemeteries, Miramar and Fort Rosecrans. The wreaths are $15 each, and wreath purchases can be grave-specific for those with loved ones buried here. Through a longstanding partnership with the Rancho Santa Fe Foundation’s The Patriot’s Connection, which is committed to honoring and supporting the members of the San Diego military community, donations are doubled and each wreath is matched one-for-one. The De Anza chapter of the DAR, based in Encinitas and serving the San Diego North County coastal area, leads the wreath program at Miramar. Co-chaired by Bobbi Williams and Brenda Kaesler, the women of the De Anza DAR oversee the program for all who come to observe, help, and pay their respects when the wreaths are laid at the gravesites. According to Williams, the cemetery has grown from a handful of burial sites when it first opened to now more than 13,000, in both columbaria and graves, and 2,000 to 3,000 volunteers now come to assist with the laying of the wreaths.
The day’s events begin at 9am and include a patriotic program that will feature an invocation from a Navy chaplain, a welcome from the cemetery director, guest speakers, the presentation of a memorial wreath for each branch of the military, and even a brief education on how to respect the gravesites for the younger attendees. Then, guests are invited to collect wreaths to distribute among the graves. Giving all generations the opportunity to honor those who served and recognize their sacrifices is paramount to Williams. “For me, it’s teaching the young generation about patriotism,” she says.
In a beautifully significant development in the WAA program and in addition to the more than 1,400 nationwide locations set to be decorated with the wreaths in the U.S., this will be the first year ever that wreaths will be placed at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, located in Colleville-sur-Mer, France. On December 1, all 9,387 headstones of the U.S. service members laid to rest there will receive a wreath to honor their service, and ceremonial wreaths will also be placed on each of the five D-Day invasion beaches.
For DAR members, this and the other programs the organization supports provide those with this honorable link to our country’s past with a powerful way to actively take part in that legacy. “[Service] was something that was always encouraged in my family, whatever form it took,” says Anne Daniells, a member of the Rincon Del Diablo chapter. “I think the heart of the organization ties in well to those who want to participate in something that very directly supports respect and honor for those who served before us.” waasandiego.com, dar.org, rsffoundation.org Deanna Murphy
Photography by Karen Mazzola