On this same day at this same hour of every year, the same ceremony is conducted in more than 900 locations across America and around the world—wreaths are placed on graves in military cemeteries on the second Saturday of December. It is called Wreaths Across America (WAA) and is an outgrowth of the Arlington Wreath Project, started in 1992. As the popular ceremony spread across the country, WAA was formed in 2007.
Here in Seattle, the theme of the 6th annual ceremony was “Never Forget.” Michael G. Reagan, famed artist of the “Fallen Heroes Project,” was the Keynote Speaker. Reagan was awarded the Citizen Service Before Self Honor (known to some as The Civilian Medal of Honor) on 25 March 2015 by the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation in Arlington, VA.
The local ceremony was held at Veterans’ Memorial Cemetery, Evergreen-Washelli, on 12 December. Six military Medal of Honor recipients are buried there. The Navy Wives Club of America (NWCA), Totem 277, led by Donna Turner and Crystal Wilkerson, started hosting this event in 2010. Lorraine Zimmerman is the club’s WAA project leader and site coordinator for Everygreen-Washelli. Totem 277’s territory is from Seattle to Burlington.The primary element of the annual ceremony is the ceremonial wreath dedication by representatives of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard, Merchant Marines, and POW/MIAs.
Zimmerman introduced the POW/MIA representative with these moving words: “William (Bill) W. Wilson, former Prisoner of the Vietnam War, made 33 missions over NVN and Laos, flying an F-111 before being shot down while bombing the Red River docks in downtown Hanoi on 22 December 1972. He evaded capture for a week, was nearly rescued by a Super Jolly Green helicopter, and then was captured by the North Vietnamese on 29 December. He spent a month in the ‘Heartbreak” section of the ‘Hanoi Hilton’ before being moved to the ‘Zoo.’ He returned to U.S. control on the last C-141A out of Hanoi on 29 March 1973 during Operation Homecoming. Bill will now place a flag [on the POW/MIA wreath] in honor of the more than 83,000 United States Servicemen from all branches of the service whose last known status was either Prisoner of War or Missing in Action. These individuals have never returned to their families and homes. We will not forget you.”
Among the many voluntary participants was the VFW Post 1040 Honor Guard. As Post Bugler, I played “Assembly” on my Super Olds cornet at 9 a.m. as Zimmerman issued the Call to Order and the 62nd Airlift Wing Air Force Honor Guard presented the colors. To close the ceremony, the VFW Post 1040 Honor Guard fired a perfect rifle salute, and I sounded “Taps.” Afterwards, participants and audience members placed wreaths on numerous tombstones in the cemetery.
For more information, please see:
- My previous posts on WAA on this blog dated 16 December 2011, 9 January 2013, and 28 April 2015.
One photo below is by Geoffrey T. Lewis. All others are by Jacque Hodgen. Please click on any photo to enlarge it.