This Monday, May 28, more than 100 volunteers from Memorial Day Flowers will hand out more than 50,000 roses at the cemetery. Visitors are given two roses, one to place on a grave, and one to take home in remembrance.
All of the flowers are donated by farmers throughout Ecuador. The idea was initiated by Ramiro Peñaherrera of Flowers for Kids. He’s part Ecuadorean and has family members buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Being that Ecuador is one of the largest rose producers in the world, he set out to get farmers there to donate roses for the cause.
“Hopefully in the future we will cover every grave site in Arlington, which I think is about 250,000,” said Nicholas Richwine, who does marketing for Memorial Day Flowers.
In addition to the roses, more than 1,000 bouquets from California will be given to American Gold Star Mothers, Inc., an organization of mothers who lost sons or daughters who were serving their country. Once volunteers place the bouquets on the individual graves, a photo is sent to each mother.
This year, the flower program expanded to other areas of the country, although Arlington is still considered the cornerstone location. More than 90 florists in 26 states have asked to participate in the commemorative program. They receive 400 roses to distribute, along with information about the program, at their local cemeteries or Memorial Day events.
Volunteers will hand out roses at Arlington National Cemetery from 8:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. on Monday. The two main stations are in front of the visitors center and in section 60, which is the burial ground for those killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Richwine adds that although the rose stations will be obvious, visitors will not see banners or other sources identifying Memorial Day Flowers. He said the goal of being at the ceremony is not to draw attention to the organization itself.
“These roses have been donated just to remember those who have fallen,” said Richwine.
Anyone interested in donating or volunteering should contact Memorial Day Flowers through its website.