Story By Will Fairless
Photos Contributed By Wreaths Across America
Wreaths will still be laid on the tombstones at Fort Mitchell National Cemetery this year, although the community-sponsored event will be closed to the public.
Wreaths Across America is a nonprofit organization that was founded to continue and expand the annual wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery begun by Maine Business Owner Morrill Worcester in 1992.
That annual tribute went on quietly until 2005, when a photo of the stones and wreaths went viral and attracted nationwide attention and support to the event. The next year, ceremonies were held at more than 150 locations. Almost 15 years later, that number is in the thousands, and wreath-laying ceremonies are held in each of the 50 states.
Wreaths Across America’s annual trip from Harrington, Maine to Arlington has become known as the world’s largest veterans parade, including stops at schools, monuments and veterans’ homes to further the organization’s mission to “remember, honor and teach,” according to its website.
Fort Mitchell is one of the thousands of locations that will hold wreath-laying ceremonies this year to honor fallen veterans. It is also one of many locations that will have a ceremony that looks different than previous years.
“This year is crazy, as you know,” said Karrie Schwerin, the location coordinator for Wreaths Across America at Fort Mitchell. “So we are forced to do things a lot differently. We will be pre-recording the ceremony, which is stripped down to mainly just the speech and placing the seven ceremonial wreaths.”
Those seven ceremonial wreaths represent each branch of the military and POW/MIA soldiers.
The wreaths will be laid on Dec. 19, and will be placed when the cemetery is closed to the public, unlike in past years.
“Every year we use this ceremony and event to celebrate those that gave their life for us to live ours,” Schwerin said. “What better way during the holiday season to do so than to place a wreath on their headstone, say their name and thank them for the ultimate sacrifice?”
Each wreath laid on a tombstone was sponsored for $15. The deadline for 2020 was Nov. 30.
“There is nothing sadder than placing some wreaths on headstones then running out and being unable to finish,” Schwerin said.
Those who could not participate this year can do so next year.
To learn more about Wreaths Across America or to find out how to sponsor wreaths, visit www.wreathsacrossamerica.org. To do the same for Fort Mitchell, visit www.fortmitchellwreaths.org.