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Each December, in National Cemeteries across America, Wreaths Across America collects thousands of wreaths from generous sponsors to place upon the graves of our fallen heroes. Their mission is to remember, honor, and teach. Karen Worcester, the Executive Director of Wreaths Across America, says that " We are not here to "decorate graves." We're here to remember not their deaths, but their lives."
The ceremony takes place on the same day and at the same time across the nation, a show of unity and solidarity. A sobering, yet beautiful, sight to see- the stark contrast of the dark green needles and red bows against the white grave markers; a reminder that freedom isn't ever free. This is the true cost of liberty. So, to honor their lives and sacrifice, we place the wreaths on their graves and say each name aloud.
The speakers remind us always of a quote that says, " A person dies twice: once when they take their final breath, and later, the last time their name is spoken." It's so important to take that moment to say that name, may they never be forgotten and their sacrifice overlooked.
I've talked a lot on my Facebook page about Christmas traditions, what your family does, asked to see your pictures and snapshots of these traditions, and what things you remember about the holidays with your family. Obviously, memories and pictures are a big deal to me. No surprise there, right? So, it's only fitting that I bring my camera along to this event and I'm happy to share some of the images with you. We have made it a yearly tradition and it's quickly made it's way to the top of my Christmas traditions list. The Wreaths Across America ceremony and wreath laying moves me to my core and leaves me misty eyed every time I think about it. I'm proud to volunteer and I'm even prouder that my kids also volunteer and do so happily. They make sure to place the wreath just right and sound out each letter of their name. Surely, they won't be forgotten in our hearts.
If this is something you would like to be a apart of for next year, volunteering is incredibly easy. You don't even really have to sign up. Just show up with a heart willing to serve. Go to www.wreathsacrossamerica.org to find a ceremony near you. If you can't make it to a ceremony, right on the website you can donate a wreath for laying. It doesn't cost much, only about $15.
If you still want to get involved THIS season, they begin to take the wreaths up in January. They need volunteers to simply walk around and take up the wreaths. All that information is also available on the website.
Have you ever attended a ceremony? Is this something you or your family would like to get involved with? I'd love to hear your experiences and see any pictures. Share them in the comments below!
Jess is a photographer serving families located in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia. She specializes in documentary and storytelling photography.
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