In 1992, a Maine company had a surplus of wreaths and arranged to place them in Arlington National Cemetery to honor the veterans. The effort became a company tradition. In 2005 a photo went viral and similar ceremonies began occurring at veterans’ cemeteries across the country. In 2007 Wreaths Across America formed, expanding the effort to annually lay wreaths at the graves of veterans during the holiday season. This year, WAMC North Country Bureau Chief Pat Bradley was at the Old Post Cemetery in Plattsburgh where veterans going back to the War of 1812 were honored.
Nearly 100 people are gathered at the Old Post Cemetery adjacent to the former Plattsburgh Air Force Base to lay 200 wreaths. There’s a brief ceremony and remarks before each person takes a wreath to place at a grave. 115th district Assemblyman D. Billy Jones: “It is a time to reflect and honor what our brave veterans have done for our country. It’s great to have our young people here. We should make sure that they are educated on what our veterans have done for us and what they have done for our country and the freedoms that we’re allowed because of them. And it’s a time during this holiday season for reflection and to really honor the sacrifices that our veterans have made for us. We should always remember that.”
Old Post Cemetery coordinator Judy Lefebvre. "Today we remember the fallen, honor those who served and teach our children the value of their freedom. Members of the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans, Sons and Daughters of the Revolutionary War will lay ceremonial and military service wreaths. First the remembrance wreath in memory of the unknown soldier of the Revolutionary War. The remembrance wreath in memory of the unknowns of the Battle of Plattsburgh. Remembrance wreath in the memory of the Spanish-American War Medal of Honor recipient Thomas Kelly.”
A cannon salute is followed by Taps. Lefebvre continues: “Remember stand quietly before the grave. Say the veteran’s name. Thank them for their service to our country. Step forward. Place the wreath leaning against the headstone or on top of flat markers. Take two steps back. They will live on.”
This is the second year Scott Elliott has laid wreaths at veterans’ graves. “When it comes to our veterans there’s always going to be a hole in somebody’s heart, in somebody’s family, where that loved one used to be. So I think it’s just a great way to continue to remember who they were and never forget their sacrifice.”
Carol Czaja was also laying wreaths. “My father was in the second World War. He was in the Air Force. And so I think about the sacrifices that people like him would have made and countless others and so it’s just a way to honor. Because my father’s not buried here it gives me a little connection in some way.”
Volunteers laid wreaths on veterans’ graves at more than 1,600 locations across the country.