Nearly 30,000 volunteers descended on Arlington National Cemetery on Saturday to lay about 257,000 wreaths on veterans’ headstones in an annual project led by the non-profit Wreaths Across America.
Similar events took place at 3,701 other locations across the U.S., drawing more than 2 million volunteers, about one-third of them children, according to the organization.
“When each wreath is placed the service member’s name is said out loud, ensuring their memory lives on,” the organization stated.
Wreaths Across America started out in 1992 as a way for a Maine-based wreath company to usefully get rid of a surplus, according to its website. The wreath company kept it a quiet tradition for years until 2005, when a photo showing rows of wreath-covered headstones in the snow caught national attention and drew thousands of volunteers.
Since then, it’s grown beyond Arlington, and according to the website, the U.S. trucking company Swift Transportation delivered wreaths from Maine to cemeteries in Missouri in a truck wrapped in a POW/MIA design.
But Arlington alone – where the tradition was born – drew more than 28,000 volunteers on Saturday, according to the organization.
More than 200 volunteers came from the Virginia power company Dominion Energy, according to a spokesman, who described the event as an “intense” two hours and said the total number of volunteers was as high as 60,000.
Emily Miller, a former One America News Network journalist, caught some traction on Twitter with a photo of her posing with Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who she said “quietly lays wreaths with all the other volunteers every year.”
She also highlighted the headstones of three service members who were among 13 killed in a suicide bombing during the Afghanistan withdrawal. She said “the families … told me they did the wreaths themselves.”
Tyler Laverick, a Navy reserve lieutenant commander interviewed by Stars and Stripes, and his wife brought their four children along to Arlington.
“It’s important for our kids to be out here and to see what this means,” Laverick said.
In a tweet by Wreaths Across America, eight children were pictured holding wreaths under the caption: “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”