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Annual holiday event ‘Wreaths Across America’ returning next week

Wreaths Across America in 2021 (staff photo by Matt Blitz)

(Updated at 3:15 p.m.) As many as 40,000 people are expected to attend Wreaths Across America at Arlington National Cemetery later this month.

The annual holiday event is set to take place on Saturday, Dec. 17 this year, starting at 8 a.m.

Wreaths Across America provides the public a chance to lay wreaths and other symbolic items at the graves of fallen service members and their families. This tradition was first started in 1992. Some 30,000 to 40,000 people are expected to volunteer this year, per a cemetery spokesperson.

However, for those who’ve attended in the past, the process for attending the event and entering the cemetery will be slightly different.

There’s a new registration system that grants timed entry into the cemetery at either 8 or 9 a.m. through one of four gates — Memorial Avenue, Service Complex gate, Old Post Chapel, and the recently-restored Ord and Weitzel gate.

The South Gate is closed this year, due to the cemetery’s expansion project. The expansion is set to add 60,00 burial sites and space for the new 9/11 Pentagon Memorial Visitor Education Center.

Registration is required to enter the cemetery this year, ANC officials said. This new step is being instituted to ensure the “safety and security” of visitors and employees.

Vehicular traffic will not be permitted in the cemetery and parking will be off-limits for the general public in the garage on Dec. 17. There will be “limited” general public parking at the Pentagon North and South parking lots.

Large crowds and road closures near the cemetery should be anticipated.

ANC officials are recommending attendees use public transportation or a ride-share service for traveling to and from the cemetery. The drop-off location will be at the parking lot at 880 Army Navy Drive in Pentagon City. From there, visitors can walk to the Service Complex gate along Columbia Pike.

The annual “Escort to Arlington” parade will also be arriving at the cemetery that day. Billed as the “country’s longest veterans’ parade,” a caravan of vehicles transporting Gold Star families and veterans will travel down the East Coast starting this weekend, en route to Arlington.

Family Pass Holder Day is being held on Sunday, Dec. 11 this year, a week prior to the event for the public. This separate event allows family pass-holders to place a wreath at their loved one’s grave ahead of the more-crowded public Wreaths Across America event.

Last year’s event was, more or less, back to normal after 2020’s version — initially canceled due to the pandemic — ended up being conducted only by military personnel and family members.

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