Despite the frigid cold and icy rain, an estimated 250 community members came to the Alexandria National Cemetery on Dec. 17 to participate in the laying of more than 2,700 donated wreaths at the graves of Veterans.
The event was part of the annual National Wreaths Across America Day. More than 1,000 other cemeteries, at home and abroad, including all of VA’s national cemeteries, participated in honoring Veterans with more than 1 million wreaths.
At this historic Virginia cemetery, where the graves of Veterans buried there date back as far as the Civil War, the service and sacrifices of the past continue to be remembered and honored.
Since 2010, the members of Boy Scout Troop 996, based in nearby Fort Hunt, Virginia, have been among those paying their respects to these Veterans. This year, 15 scouts and 10 adults from the small troop laid a wreath at every other grave in the cemetery. A number of others participated, to include members of the American Heritage Girls, the Girl Scouts and more.
During the ceremony, the wreath-layers showed their respect by stopping at each grave, saying the person’s name and rendering a salute.
Assistant Scoutmaster Rod Sansone sees a valuable lesson for today’s youth in the event’s threefold mission of “Remember, Honor and Teach.”
“Those three principles there … that’s why I bring my Scouts out there … it’s really to teach them,” he said. “For me, seeing our young people and Veterans out there … it’s a tangible and very visible way for me to see how we are honoring them … It’s the protocol and laying the wreaths properly … we are teaching the next generation how important it is to remember and to honor.”
As a Marine Corps Veteran, Sansone naturally has a connection to other Veterans, but days like that Saturday remind him that freedom comes with a price, which no American should forget. The observance allows those who attend to express their thanks to so many they have never met, for the defense of America’s way of life.
“When I see the ceremony and I see the wreaths being laid, I feel more like a citizen respecting the other Veterans who have ultimately given their lives,” said Sansone. “I never really think about myself. I’m always thinking about those who gave their lives and the generations who gave their lives before us.”
Alexandria National Cemetery is one of the 14 original national cemeteries, which were established in 1862. To learn more about VA’s national cemeteries, visit the National Cemetery Administration’s listing of cemeteries.
The Wreaths Across America project began in 1992, when a Maine wreath maker donated 5,000 surplus wreaths to Arlington National Cemetery. Find out more at http://www.wreathsacrossamerica.org.