Community – a vivacious movement of influence that makes us aware and moves us forward
Over the course of my life, I’ve volunteered for many organizations and service projects and enjoyed those opportunities to bring goodness to others. But, my recent participation in National Wreaths Across America Day was an experience that I’ll never forget. I’ve heard about it in the news and in conversation in the work social hub (that’s now the millennial version of the water cooler) these last few years, but I don’t think I truly understood the magnitude of preparation and labor involved. To be honest, I had never even been to Arlington National Cemetery despite my familial roots in the D.C. metropolitan area until a few weeks ago. In my quest to do more of what I’ve never done, give back, and explore what’s right in my backyard, I decided to donate and volunteer for National Wreaths Across America Day.
On a designated day in December, fresh wreaths are placed on the graves at Arlington National Cemetery and other veterans cemeteries across the U.S. to honor those men and women who sacrificed for our freedom. This effort is organized by Wreaths Across America and completely funded by individual wreath sponsors, corporate donors, and volunteer truckers who desire to pay tribute to soldiers and their families. The 2015 event was held on December 12th, and there were literally thousands of volunteers lined up to receive the wreaths driven all the way from Maine by a convoy of trucks that would be placed on the headstones. Enough funds were raised for a wreath to be laid at every headstone in Arlington National Cemetery. That’s about 400,000 individual headstones! The cemetery is massive, which I soon discovered after walking about 10 minutes and still finding myself a long way off from the middle point (oh man, my feet!). It’s huge! The even bigger moment for me was seeing all of the volunteers from places near and far gathered to share in this orderly act to simply say thank you. Everything from the smell of the evergreen to the kids innocently playing in the grass while gripping small American flags in their hands was so moving. And then when you see the wreaths with the prominent red holiday bow lined up on every row, it’s an image that just stays with you. Participating in this event reminded me of the vigor and grace of a united community. It made me even more proud to be an American and further appreciate the gentleness of life and this memorial that I drive by every day on my commute to the city. It was also a delight and privilege to witness the regality of all the different branches of the U.S. military honoring their own.
Most days we probably don’t think about the cost of freedom unless it’s something that directly impacts our family or lives. But, this event made it very real for me and further demonstrated the priceless value of what we can do when we exercise the power of community. I extend my sincerest gratitude to our fallen heroes, known and unknown, to their families and friends, to my grandpa and other relatives who have served, and to all those who serve in the armed forces today.