Soldiers, Not Volunteers, to Lay Wreaths at Cemetery This Year

The annual Wreaths Across America holiday wreath-laying is back on at Arlington National Cemetery, but with some big changes.

Due to the pandemic, the legions of volunteers that usually participate will not be able to do so this year. Instead, most of the nearly quarter-million wreaths will be placed — and removed, after Christmas — by soldiers based at Fort Myer.

“Unfortunately, including the general public is not possible during the pandemic, and the cemetery will be closed to the public from December 13 to 19,” the cemetery said last week. “This year’s event will be a multi-day, phased plan involving family pass holders, the Military District of Washington (MDW), soldiers from the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) and the Wreaths Across America organization.”

“This approach will enable these partners to safely lay and recover approximately 267,000 wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery (ANC) and Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home National Cemetery,” the cemetery added.

The wreath-laying was initially cancelled by cemetery officials this year, but was brought back after intervention by military brass and President Trump.

The cemetery’s press release is below.

Arlington National Cemetery (ANC) and Wreaths Across America (WAA), along with our partners the U.S. Army Military District of Washington (MDW) and the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment, “The Old Guard” (TOG), will safely lay and recover approximately 267,000 wreaths to honor our nation’s heroes and their family members this December.

We developed this plan to balance our security posture and health and safety requirements with the desire to allow limited in-person participation. Therefore, family pass holders of those interred at ANC and Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home National Cemetery (SAHNC) will be able to lay wreaths in person at designated times. Members of the general public can take part in this year’s National Wreath Day in a virtual setting.

This plan enables us to preserve our capability to execute our primary mission to bury our nation’s service members and their eligible family members with the honor and dignity the American people have come to expect from Arlington National Cemetery.

Event schedule:

Sunday, December 13: Family pass holders only will be welcomed to lay wreaths at their loved ones’ graves from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The cemetery will be closed to the general public.

Monday through Friday, December 14-18: The cemetery will be closed to the general public, enabling the MDW and TOG soldiers to safely place wreaths on graves while ANC simultaneously conducts over 100 funerals during the week. Family pass holders are welcome to visit the cemetery daily from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. to place their private wreaths flowers.

Saturday, December 19: A small group of Wreaths Across America team members will place wreaths in a designated section of the cemetery, and the National Wreath Day event will be broadcast for the public to experience.  The broadcast link and time will be available closer to the event. Family pass holders are welcome to visit the cemetery from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. to place their private  wreaths or flowers.

During the week of December 13-19, the cemetery will be closed to the general public.

Sunday, December 20: The cemetery will reopen to the public. Visitors are welcome to place graveside tributes of privately purchased wreaths or flowers in accordance with our floral policy […]

Arlington National Cemetery is complying with the Department of Defense directives and supplemental “Force Health Protection Guidance for the Novel Coronavirus Outbreak,” and with current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance for this virus. The health protection of our workforce and our visitors is a top priority, and ANC maintains our commitment to honor the nation’s veterans who rest on these iconic grounds.

Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley

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