• Allie and Ryan

    Allie & Ryan

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    Allie & Ryan

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    Allie & Ryan

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    Allie & Ryan

  • Ryan and Allie 5

    Allie & Ryan

Monday, December 12, 2011

Wreath Laying at Arlington Cemetary

Most of you who know me know I am not in any way, shape or form a morning person. But when my neighbor Carrie sent me the link to Wreaths Across America and asked me if I wanted to do wreath laying at Arlington Cemetary I did not hesitate for a second when I agreed. Wreaths Across America is a nonprofit organization founded to continue and expand the annual wreath laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery begun by Maine businessman, Morrill Worcester, in 1992. Every year huge tractor trailers filled with boxes and boxes of fresh, beautiful wreaths arrive to Arlington and volunteers lay them on every grave. Wreaths Across America now lays wreaths at cemetaries across the country to honor veterans and those who have served. Please feel free to look at their website to learn more!

Lots of people were there!

Saturday Carrie and I got up early, (just like a work day!) and made our way to the metro. We are only a few stops from Arlington, but the train got packed fast! Girl scout troops, boyscout troops, college kids, veterans... tons of people! We almost could not get onto the metro platform since it was so packed. And I am glad we took the metro, because traffic was waaaaay backed up.

Isn't that great thought? SO many people coming to volunteer and say thank you. Amazing.

Helicopters did fly bys all morning in between the various ceremonies

ROTCs and all sorts of members of the armed services came in uniform.

We made our way into the cemetary and saw most people were going up the main hill towards the center, so we instead took a quick left and walked towards the side of the cemetary I have not been to before. On one of the first roads we saw our first truck, but it looked pretty busy so we kept walking to the next one.

Approaching the truck.

Once you made it to the truck volunteers were emptying the boxes of wreaths. You basically got to an open box, grabbed one or more, and then went on your way. Some trucks got a little crowded, but mostly everyone was just trying to help where they could. Some boyscout leaders would just grab a box and take it to their kids instead of having them go into the masses, which I thought was smart! The first time we each only took one wreath, the other times we took about three each.

People then got down to work, laying wreaths. They asked if the headstone had a Star of David on it that you skip it (I heard that after I laid one on one), but I don't think those people would have been insulted! I wish I had some rocks I could have put on top of them or something, I felt bad just skipping those.

My first wreath

Carrie's first wreath

My first wreath was laid at a Marine's grave from WW2. Purple heart, Silver Star. They ask for each wreath you lay that you take a moment, read the headstone, and say thank you. Some of these graves have been unvisited for years, and this is a moment for them to be honored and showed respect.

Carrie laying her first wreath. Later on we actually found David McCampbell, a medal of honor winner. I was walking by and I saw that on his headstone and I just stopped. It seems surprising, the medal of honor winners have the same headstone and are in the same place as anyone else. I thought perhaps they'd have a special section, or a larger marker, but they are just mixed in. I hope I don't sound disrespectful or weird saying that, but it was very humbling to walk by and see that. Carrie laid a wreath on his grave.

Wreaths stretched as far as the eye could see.

I'm not going to lie, I got quite choked up.

Especially when I saw headstones for men (and women) who died in Iraq or Afghanistan. Those were a lot harder for me to see. Men and women who died fighting where my husband fought. Beloved sons and fathers and husbands and wives and daughters and mothers. Seeing that made be go from beyond choked up to actually having tears fall.

Those in uniform were also very emotional to watch. They all saluted and laid their wreaths with such ceremony. Many people just stopped and watched them do row by row.

People were all across the cemetary anywhere you looked, paying respects, heads bowed and hands brushing marble in whispers of thanks.

Patriotism was definitely high. Motorcycles and cars with flags were a common sight. Obviously cars outnumbered parking spaces so people were actually able to drive into the cemetary and park on the sides of the roads.

We were so far down we were actually pretty close to the Air Force Memorial. As we were finishing up in all our sections we got a text from a friend of Carrie's. His father was a Marine who died in a car accident in 2003, and he wanted us to go over and see if he had a wreath yet.

When Carrie laid the wreath on his grave and said her thanks I definitely lost it. Tears and all flowing down my face. We both were definitely wrecks at that point but so so honored for what we had just done.

We decided not to go to another section of the cemetary as it was pretty full at that point. People were coming and going constantly so we decided to skip the metro in Arlington and cross the bridge and walk up the mall towards DC and the yellow line to get home. Six miles, some cold faces and a potbelly sandwich later we made it to the metro to get home. By noon I was parking at home and getting my slightly frozen self into the shower to defrost. Then I took a two hour nap. Maybe three hours.

Overall it was a beautiful, emotional day and I am so honored I was able to be apart of it. Thank you to all those who organized, those who attended, and to Carrie for getting this girl up before 7:30 on a Saturday morning.


  1. I am so proud of my grown up daughter....who btw still makes me cry
    I love you Allie

  2. That is the most wonderful thing- Thank you so much. We have three friends buried there. One is my husband's best friend- his widow posted his picture from his gravesite with his wreath, Thank you for taking the time to remember & help. I will be sharing this Blog on my FB as I have so many Military friends- what a great thing you did.

  3. Ugh I cried reading this. That is so amazing that you had the opportunity to be apart of that.

  4. What an amazing experience! Thank you for sharing with us.

  5. What an amazing thing. I'm totally choking up looking at these photos. Such a beautiful tribute.


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