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Wreaths Across America ceremonies go virtual this year

Wreaths to still be placed at graves

John Richmeier
The Leavenworth Times
Wreaths are presented in honor of branches of the U.S. military as well as prisoners of war and service members who are missing in action during a recent Wreaths Across America ceremony at the Leavenworth National Cemetery.
A color guard from Fort Leavenworth participates in a recent Wreaths Across America ceremony at the Leavenworth National Cemetery.

Saturday will be National Wreaths Across America Day. But like many other events this year, Wreaths Across America ceremonies at two local cemeteries are virtual this year.

Christmas wreaths will be placed at graves at Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery and Leavenworth National Cemetery. But these activities are not open to the general public because of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to organizers.

The tradition of Wreath Across America began in 1992 when a wreath company in Maine had a surplus near the end of the holiday season. The owner helped make arrangements for wreaths to be placed in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.

In 2007, a not-for-profit organization was formed to help continue and expand the program, according to the organization’s website.

Wreaths Across America are held each year at Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery and Leavenworth National Cemetery. These ceremonies generally are open to the public, and people who attend the ceremonies are invited to help lay wreaths at graves.

But the local events had to be modified this year because of the pandemic.

This year’s Wreaths Across America ceremony for Leavenworth National Cemetery already has taken place. And a video of the event has been posted online.

A link to the video can be found on the Wreaths Across America Leavenworth National Cemetery Facebook page, www.facebook.com/WAA.LNCemetery.

Diana Pitts, a coordinator for the Wreaths Across America program at Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery, said a ceremony also will take place at that cemetery. And a video of the event will be posted to the Facebook page for Wreaths Across America Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery, www.facebook.com/ftlvnnc.

Pitts said wreaths will be placed at a different time at graves at Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery by a small core group of selected volunteers.

The volunteers will observe social distancing and wear masks.

Pitts said a separate time is being set aside for family members of people buried at the cemetery. She said family members can arrange with her to visit the cemetery. She can be reached by email at dianawaa2017@yahoo.com.

Pitts said 2,970 wreaths will be placed at graves at Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery. She said the number of wreaths that have been donated this year is down dramatically from last year.

She said organizers have not been able to do their normal promotional activities this year for the Wreaths Across America program.

“My thing is whether you have one wreath or 10,000, we’re going to honor them regardless,” Pitts said.

Pitts said pages of names of people buried at the cemetery have been posted in recent days on the Facebook page for Wreaths Across America Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery.

She said people can view these lists as a way to observe the Wreaths Across America mission of Remember. Honor. Teach.

“You don’t have to physically be somewhere to honor them,” she said.

At Leavenworth National Cemetery, volunteers will be laying wreaths at graves throughout the day on Saturday, according to Michelle Cebe, who coordinates the Wreaths Across America program at that cemetery.

The number of volunteers who will be traveling to the cemetery at any one time will be limited.

The volunteers who will be participating have signed up in advance.

Cebe said 3,924 wreaths have been donated this year for the Leavenworth National Cemetery. She said this number is down from last year.

Cebe said she is not surprised there are fewer donations this year because of the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the economy.

Twitter: @LVTNewsJohnR