To Remember, to Honor: Mission Accomplished

Arlington

The mission of Wreaths Across America is simple yet noble: “To Remember, Honor, & Teach about the service and sacrifices of our veterans, active military, and their families. We will Never Forget.”

And that they did, on Dec. 14, when Wreaths Across America volunteers placed thousands of beautiful wreaths (Maine balsam with a hand-tied red bow ) on as many as possible of our fallen heroes’ graves — thanks to your and thousands of Americans’ caring and generosity.

At Arlington National Cemetery alone, volunteers placed more than 143,000 wreaths on gravesites.

These are the words of one of the visitors to the Arlington event: “I said, ‘Let’s come down early and actually volunteer and put some wreaths on. What really impressed me was how many served in multiple wars.” After reading the inscriptions on some of the headstones, he continued, “You see individuals that served in three and four wars. It’s really incredible, the dedication and commitment that they showed for our country. It’s a profound sense of gratitude, to see how fortunate we are to live the life that we live, in part because of what these people have sacrificed.”

These are some of the images:

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Trucks carrying wreaths arrive at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., Dec. 14, 2013. Thousands of volunteers helped place over 143,000 wreaths at the graves of fallen service members as part of the annual Wreaths Across America event. DOD photo by Sebastian Sciotti Jr.

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Volunteers wait in line to receive wreaths to be placed in their designated areas during Wreaths Across America at Arlington National Cemetery. DOD photo by Sebastian Sciotti Jr.

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Service members and volunteers hand out wreaths to be placed at grave markers during the Wreaths Across America event at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va.

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Marine Corps Maj. Daniel Smith and daughter, Kara Anne, lay a wreath at a gravesite at Arlington National Cemetery, Dec. 14, 2013, as part of the 22nd annual “Wreaths Across America” event. U.S. Army photo by C. Todd Lopez

tomb's wreath

Service members, veterans and volunteers render honors as a member of the U.S. Army Honor Guard, 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, places a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery, in Arlington, Va., Dec. 14, 2013.Photo DOD.

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A wreath lays at the grave of the late President John. F. Kennedy, placed there by volunteers during the Wreaths Across America event at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., Dec. 14, 2013. DOD photo by Sebastian Sciotti Jr.

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Master-at-Arms 2nd Class Lisa Square, assigned to Naval Base Kitsap, attaches a U.S. Navy flag to one of seven wreaths displayed in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Ivy Green Cemetery during a Wreaths Across America Day ceremony. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman William Blees

Lead image: A section of Arlington National Cemetery, Va., shows a fraction of the 143,000 wreaths placed at the graves of fallen service members during Wreaths Across America, Dec. 14, 2013. DOD photo by Sebastian Sciotti Jr.

Author: DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

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4 Comments

  1. I fear that many of the fallen, especially in the wars of the last fifty years, were young men who entered the military for lots of reasons but with little dispassionate consideration. Then they were sacrificed because our leaders lack a vision for promoting American interests other than military force. What compelling national interest required the shedding of blood in Viet Nam, twice in Iraq, and even smaller actions like Somalia? The USA was able to erode away the might of the Soviet Union, which had given a good account of itself versus the might of the Third Reich, with less bloodshed than Black Hawk Down. But our politicians have no incentive for being judicious when we cover their mistakes with a few ceremonies and wreaths.
    I don’t mean that the fallen do not deserve memorialization. I think that they deserve more than wreaths. They deserve our earnest inquiry into the actual events of their deaths and looking at alternatives. I think that military action can backfire; I imagine that a drone missile strike that gets a terrorist along with a some bystanders will result in the relatives of the bystanders becoming more implacable. Human beings do not always cave in response to war. We did not cave after Pearl Harbor; the Russian people resisted with unimaginable heroism in WW II, the Chinese resisted the IJA, etc.
    I am not a pacifist, but America has in my life time chosen to go to war when there was no attack on the US and little credible risk of a knockout blow requiring a preemptive attack.
    When we place wreaths on military graves, let’s spend a moment thinking about limiting the number of wreaths we’ll need in the future. Our leaders must be willing to think about the long path to solving international problems rather than the chest-pounding and sending eightteen year olds to distant places to be killed or maimed.

  2. I find the laying of wreaths a reflective memorial rather than a jingoistic ritual. And I’m impressed by the volunteers; every age, race, and gender participating. Some no doubt from far away, some no doubt a friend or relative of the fallen. I hope some can find peace through their remembering.

  3. @The_Ohioan and Marsman.

    Thank you for your comments.

    I believe both of you are correct. Yes it is a reflective memorial and, yes, honoring the fallen should not be taken as an approval or disapproval of the wars they have fought in or as an approval or condemnation of the vision and motives of the leaders who took us into those wars and, finally, yes, the fallen “deserve more than wreaths…”

    I think we can do all three simultaneously and respectfully: honor, reflect and question…

    Thanks again

  4. The comments of Marsman resonate for me. What better expression of respect for our military men and women could there be than only sending them into harms way when it’s absolutely necessary? That said, honoring them in memorial is important too. IOW, I agree with Dorian.

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