WREATHS ACROSS CHATTANOOGA
In our Wreaths Across Chattanooga campaign, wreaths have been placed on a certain number of graves at Chattanooga National Cemetery but never have all 49,000 graves received a wreath. The purpose of “Wreaths Across Chattanooga” is to lay a wreath on the grave of each fallen veteran at Chattanooga National Cemetery and to remind everyone of how important it is to remember, honor and teach. Here in 2023, wreaths will be placed on Saturday, December 9, 2023.
Wreaths Across America had its beginning in 1992 when Worchester Wreath Company of Harrington, Maine found themselves with a surplus of wreaths near the end of the holiday season. Morrill Worchester, the company owner, on a visit to Arlington National Cemetery, had a youthful indelible experience that followed him throughout his life; this youthful experience reminded him that his good fortune was due, in large part, to the values of this nation and the veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice to their country. With this surplus of wreaths and his youthful experience at Arlington National Cemetery, Worchester realized that he had an opportunity to honor our country’s veterans; arrangements were made for these surplus wreaths to be placed at Arlington in one of the older sections that had been receiving fewer visitors with each passing year. This annual tribute went on quietly for several years, until 2005, when a photo of the stones at Arlington, adorned with wreaths and covered in snow, circulated on the internet. Suddenly, the project received national attention with the Civil Air Patrol becoming involved which resulted in wreath-laying ceremonies across the country. The first ceremony at Chattanooga National Cemetery took place in 2006.
The mission of Wreaths Across Chattanooga is to lay a wreath on every gravestone at Chattanooga National and in so doing is to simply REMEMBER-ALL CHATTANOOGA AREA VETERANS WHO SERVED OUR COUNTRY, HONOR-THE LIVES OF THOSE WHO SERVED AND MADE THE ULTIMATE SACRIFICE and TEACH-THE VALUE OF FREEDOM AND THOSE WHO PROTECTED OUR FREEDOM. This is an opportunity to connect “The Greatest Generations” with the “Generation of Hope.”
“Wreaths Across Chattanooga” would not be successful without the help of so many volunteers and active organizations. Since 2006, each December, hundreds of people in our area show up to help place the wreaths on each gravestone. Also, in January, volunteers show up for the “Retiring of the Wreaths”, which is the clean-up date at Chattanooga National Cemetery.
In many local discussions, there is a perception that a wreath is placed on every grave marker at Chattanooga National Cemetery but that isn’t the case. The national record-setting Wreaths across Chattanooga campaigns of 2021 and 2022, enough funds were collected to place 29,024 (2021) and 30,746 (2022); Wreaths across Chattanooga placed more wreaths on graves of veterans than any organization in the United States for years 2021 and 2022.
When a headstone is left bare, it can be very personal, and one ponders the question “What about my son?” or “What about my daughter?” or “What about my father?” and for me it becomes “What about my mother?” How many people come to Chattanooga National Cemetery and see these wreaths or see the wreaths in our news but there’s not one on their loved one’s marker?