President Trump intervened when Arlington National Cemetery canceled the annual wreath-laying event, Wreaths Across America, this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. The event will take place this year and some changes have been made to accommodate public health orders.
Soldiers based at Fort Myer will place almost a quarter-million wreaths on graves at Arlington National Cemetery (ANC) and then remove the wreaths after Christmas. The cemetery will be closed to the general public from December 13 to 19.
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.
The press release states that ANC is abiding by the “Force Health Protection Guidance for the Novel Coronavirus Outbreak,” and with current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance for the coronavirus. Though the general public is not allowed to be volunteers and participate in the annual event in order to protect the health of the workforce, the cemetery’s commitment to honor veterans remains a priority. A multi-day, phased plan involving family pass holders will allow them to help lay 267,000 wreaths. On Sunday, December 13, family pass holders will be allowed to place wreaths from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The cemetery will be closed to the public.
Monday through Friday, December 14-18, members of the military will lay the wreaths while ANC simultaneously conducts over 100 funerals that week. Family pass holders are welcome to place private wreaths from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and the cemetery will be closed to the public.
On Sunday, December 20, ANC will reopen to the public. Visitors are welcome to place privately purchased wreaths or flowers in accordance with our floral policy at gravesides.
This is a much-needed good story at a time when current events are focused on the horrors of the pandemic and the havoc it bestows on our lives. Public health officials and elected officials did their best to dissuade Americans from coming together to celebrate Thanksgiving and now they have begun to do so about the Christmas holiday season. This decision to alter the annual event at Arlington National Cemetery instead of canceling it provides a little bit of normalcy to a very abnormal year. I hope other cemeteries around the country continue the yearly tradition, too. It all takes place outdoors and social distancing is easy to maintain as volunteers fan out and work individually. It’s the least we can do to recognize and honor the memories of our veterans.