We arrived in the National Capitol Region via a wonderful USAF PCS from Charleston, South Carolina--my home and where I grew up. I figured that that would be our last and we could settle down--here we are, going on four years in the NCR. Nevertheless, we would make the best of this PCS as we had in many others. Only this time, I would not be working as we sold our businesses in Charleston and I would take on the role of, Director of Operations, House. On the other hand, I would need to have some things to keep me busy, outside of fishing and hunting, and something that I have a heart for, Honor Flight and Wreaths Across America are two of the functions that I decided would be a good thing. They satisfy this yearning to give back to those that sevre and have served.
Honor Flight, a wonderful organization that brings our heroes to DC to see their monuments takes up Spring through the early Fall and brings forth my efforts of tour guide, general help at the monuments, and "veteran sidekick." In the Winter, Wreaths Across America (WAA) gears up for the delivery of wreaths to over 400 cemeteries nationwide, in specific Arlington National Cemetery (ANC). A few years ago, I saw a photo that had gone viral of the headstones in ANC adorned with wreaths in the snow that left a lasting impression with me. That photograph was taken by an Honor Guardsman of which I also have an affinity for as I was able to accomplish two funerals in ANC with the USAF Honor Guard during my stint with the training flight in the early 90's, representing my home station, Tinker AFB.
Nevertheless, in October of 2009, I began looking for something to do and came across some information for WAA and sent an email to Wayne, now a board of trustee member with WAA, asking, "how could I help." Weeks later, I found myself in the back of a trailer at ANC, unloading the 100's of boxes containing 8 wreaths each. Four Christmases later, I found myself once again, this time attending my first meeting as a key volunteer, and again volunteering as an unloader. I have found that this particular job is most satisfying, seeing the 1000's of volunteers coming out to be a part of such a wonderful event and watching them have the same attitude in honoring our heroes. WAA's mantra, "REMEMBER the Fallen, HONOR those that serve and their families and, TEACH our children the value of freedom."
20 years ago, Mr. Worcester, owner of Worcester Wreath Company of Harrington Maine, had a few thousand wreaths leftover. He did not wish for them to go to waste and he thought what a better idea than to donate them to ANC--he contacted his Senator, Olympia Snowe and through organization and arrangements made with ANC, the wreaths were placed on a few thousand graves. 20 years later, from what began as a gesture and honor with only a few thousand wreaths, has grown to 97,000+ wreaths in 2011 and possibly to 147,000 this year, 37 trucks, and tens of thousands of volunteers from across the nation.
You too can participate in this wonderful event! On Saturday, 15 December 2012, at approximately 0930, festivities will begin in the Memorial Amphitheater behind the Tomb of the Unknowns. Volunteers are asked to prepare early for this event as parking is minimal and access to Arlington National Cemetery will only be relegated to the two main entrances on the North Side (Netherlands Carillon Entrance) and the Main Entrance (Memorial Bridge). It would be best if volunteers would utilize Metro to minimize the amount of vehicles in and around ANC. NOTE: Wreaths are only to be placed on graves within the cemetery and not to be taken outside the cemetery. We understand that many of you may have sponsored wreaths--those sponsored wreaths are sponsored for ANC graves only--WAA and the families and friends of the Veterans appreciate your sponsorship!
Proposed Timeline for Saturday 15 Nov (rain, snow, sleet, shine--no weather canx date)
0800 Cemetery Garage Parking Open
0800 Cemetery Gates Open
0930 Opening Ceremony (Memorial Amphitheater)
1000 Wreath Laying Begins
1000 HMX1 Helicopter Overfly
1100 Wreath Laying at President Kennedy Grave
1130 Wreath Laying at USS Maine Mast
1200 Wreath Laying at Tomb of Unknowns
For updated information please visit the WAA website!