Written by Carrie Kilareski
For the fourth year, our American Heritage Girls Troop VA 0428 went to Arlington National Cemetery to lay wreaths with Wreaths Across America.
It was the warmest day for it since we’ve been doing it (the high was supposed to be 70!). It was the second year in a row that every grave will have a wreath to honor it. It was a beautiful morning. We always like going to the ceremony before we lay the wreaths–it just seems appropriate to start the morning of honoring our military off with the Color Guard, National Anthem, hearing the wreath maker speak, hearing a Gold Star mom say thank you, and then the fly over of HMX helicopters. During the ceremony, retired Army Chief of Staff, General Raymond Odierno led the crowd in USA chants! This morning, they had a surprise for us at the ceremony–Trace Adkins sang his song, “Arlington”. There was not a dry eye around.
240,815 wreaths were laid at Arlington National Cemetery. It was beautiful to pause by each grave as we laid the wreaths and say the hero’s name and pray for their families.
A huge thank you to Panera Bread at Fortuna Plaza in Dumfries and to all of our great community of Woodbridge! Because of you, our troop collected donations to sponsor 649 wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery. For a small troop of 35 girls, we made a huge impact in helping to ensure every grave was honored. Not only that, but this is are only fundraiser and it was a huge success! We really want to thank Panera Bread because they generously let us have a table in front of their restaurant every Saturday in October and November plus Veterans Day seeking donations for this great cause. Thank you also to community members who supported us through the website or through people you knew in the troop.
Arlington National Cemetery estimates that 70,000 volunteers were there on Saturday. Usually there are 20,000. However, it wasn’t too crowded when you think about over 240,000 graves to honor. At each grave, we made sure to take the time to say the hero’s name to honor them, and to pray for their families as well as making sure their wreath is laid neatly. Remember. Honor. Teach.
As the speakers during the ceremony said, it isn’t about decorating the cemetery, but about honoring those military who have died. Wreaths Across America has a saying that a person dies twice: once when they take their last breath on earth and a second time the last time their name is said on earth. Say their name, read their tombstone, say a prayer of thanks for our freedom and praying for their families. Some died young. Some died after serving in many wars. Some list their awards.
If you are worried about how our country is today, Saturday was a beautiful example that there are still many who care about our country and those who have died so that we are free.