Honoring those who have given the ultimate sacrifice to their country is something that knows no season, but at Christmas time especially—a time when the world has historically laid aside arms and come together, when peace and harmony are top of mind, when family and friends are remembered in our hearts and we are reminded to be thankful for all that we have—that honor is all the more important. Unfortunately, there are countless fallen heroes and brave veterans whose names are inscribed on tombstones all over the world, their lives hardly given all the due their service and sacrifice most certainly deserve in the few words borne by the icy slabs of stone. So much time, so much bravery, so much selflessness is required of them all; and the willingness they showed in doing what has ultimately led to our continued freedom should be given the highest degree of respect, their stories passed on to the generations that come after so that they are never forgotten.
In an effort to preserve their memory and to teach their history, to honor them with even the smallest token of thanks, the Wreaths Across America organization established a day set aside when Arlington National Cemetery as well as at more than 1,400 additional locations in all 50 U.S. states, at sea, and abroad participate in coordinated wreath-laying ceremonies. Commencing on December 15, 2018, the thousands upon thousands of wreaths that will mark gravestones, memorial walls, and commemorative sites become a show of solidarity and support that represents our gratefulness as a nation, the circles of evergreen a reminder of their service. And as thousands of people walk these sites to lay wreaths, their hearts are filled with emotion and indescribable gratitude that we as a nation of free men and women can never fully express.
Two tenets of the mission of Wreaths Across America are, of course, to honor and remember—and the wreath ceremony is an important part of that. Actively participating in that mission for nearly a decade, Resthaven Memorial Gardens and Cemetery in Clarksville is one of the area locations whose grounds are graced with green each December as the fallen heroes and countless veterans whose lives of service have come to an end and brought them here. Resthaven considers it an honor and a privilege to pay respect to these brave heroes and veterans.
“As a retired veteran, I brought my daughter and son to Resthaven to participate a few years ago, and we were so struck by the emotion of it all that we were hooked immediately,” says location coordinator for Resthaven Alicia Clark, who initially took on the job as a temporary position. Six years later, she has become the permanent coordinator, and it’s a mission of passion that has grown in its support immensely over the past few years. “It’s an honor to carry out the mission, which is to Remember, Honor, and Teach. It’s a wonderful thing that really puts your heart and your mind in the right place before Christmas; and we’re having an amazing year with the amount of wreaths being placed on the grave sites.”
“We love to honor the veterans, and this is a very special, very important way for us to do that,” adds Terry Markham, Manager at Resthaven.
The mission of teaching is carried out as thousands of school, Scout, civic, and religious groups across the country participate in fundraising efforts for wreath sponsorships. In return, they receive fundraising dollars that assist in advancing their own goals and projects.
As generations grow and time passes, the tradition of wreaths will continue as evergreen as the branches themselves. And while the number of wreaths will also continue to grow, it can be a time not of sadness, but a time of thanks for the gift these brave men and women have given us all.