On December 17th, tens of thousands of volunteers helped lay wreaths on the headstones of fallen soldiers all across the United States.
More than 44,000 people alone came to Arlington National Cemetery to lay the wreaths, despite harsh wintry conditions.
The “Wreaths Across America” event is an annual tradition at the cemetery and this year took place at 1,228 locations nationwide. In total, 1.2 million remembrance wreaths were placed at the headstones of fallen soldiers.
Hundreds of thousands of wreaths came to Virginia for the event.
“I came out here so I can spend a little bit of Christmas with my guys,” Army Sergeant Chad Longell told PEOPLE. “They can’t spend Christmas with their families, so I came here. I spent Christmas with them when we were deployed. To put a wreath on their graves meant so much to me.”
“To see all these people come together, from all walks of life, with different opinions and politics and religions, in the cold and freezing rain, to join us here and across the country to say thank you to our veterans, proves we aren’t all that different,” Karen Worcester, the group’s executive director told PEOPLE. “We’re all grateful Americans.”