Thousands of Graves at Arlington Cemetery May Forgo Wreaths Due to Lack of Funding

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AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

Wreaths Across America, a non-profit group that for the last 23 years has been placing wreaths on the graves of our nation’s fallen warriors without any government assistance, is thousands short of its goal of placing one commemorative garland at each of the nearly 230,000 headstones at the Arlington National Cemetery, due to a lack of funding this holiday season.

On the second or third Saturday of every December — Wreaths Across America Day — the organization coordinates wreath laying ceremonies at over 1,000 veteran cemeteries and other sacred locations across the United States and 24 locations on foreign soil in honor and remembrance of the nation’s fallen heroes.

As of Nov. 29, Breitbart News learned that the organization, which relies on donations and does not receive any government funding, was still short tens of thousands of wreaths to reach its goal of placing one on every tombstone at the Arlington National Cemetery alone.

Tobin Slaven, director of communications for the organization, told Breitbart News Saturday afternoon that the 30,000 wreath shortfall the organization was facing as of Nov. 27 was getting smaller, noting that the group still needs to raise a large amount of money to cover the deficit.

The non-profit organization is responsible for raising $3.5 million to fund the $15 wreaths that are to be placed on each veteran grave at the Arlington Cemetery.

According to the Washington Examiner, the group needed $450,000 to cover the shortfall.

Although he was unable to provide specific figures by the time this report was submitted for publication, Slaven said that the wreath deficit stood at “less than 30,000” as of Saturday afternoon, giving credit to Fox News’ coverage of the budget gap for the increase in donations.

“The [budget] gap is shortening,” he told Breitbart News.

Slaven said he should be able to provide new estimates by Monday morning.

He added that the deadline to raise the necessary funds for the Arlington Cemetery wreaths was extended from Nov. 30 to Dec. 9. The deadline to raise donations for the other locations remains the end of the day Nov. 30.

“It’s a great way to honor our fallen friends and to pay tribute to them and to make sure that the families of the fallen know that they’re not forgotten, especially at the holidays, but all throughout the year,” Bre Kingsbury, Wreaths Across America’s team captain, told Fox News.

The non-profit organization embarks on a pilgrimage every year dubbed the “Veteran’s Parade,” which starts in Harrington, Maine and culminates on Wreaths Across America Day at the Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, right outside Washington, D.C, with the delivery of fresh evergreen “remembrance wreaths” for the thousands of warriors buried there.

“For centuries, fresh evergreens have been used as a symbol of honor and serve as a living tribute renewed annually,” notes the group in a Nov. 27 statement. “Wreaths Across America believes the tradition represents a living memorial that honors veterans, active duty military and their families.”

During the annual trip, the group stops at schools, monuments, veterans’ homes and communities along the way to promote its mission of honoring those who serve, remembering the fallen heroes, and teaching children about the sacrifices made by veterans and their families to keep the America safe and preserve the freedoms it provides.

This year National Wreaths Across America Day falls on Dec. 12. The non-profit predicts that over 800,000 volunteers will gather at veterans cemeteries and other sacred locations across all 50 states and beyond to place an estimated 725,000 wreaths in honor of the fallen heroes.

“Only 24 of the locations are on foreign soil – and at those locations we cannot import the wreaths into the countries, so we do a wreath ceremony but are not [yet] able to place a wreath on every headstone the way we do at the other location,” Slaven told Breitbart News.

The volunteers organize the ceremonies, raise funds to sponsor the wreaths, participate in promoting the group’s mission during the annual trip, and place the wreaths on the tombstones.

Many people assume the wreaths on the graves at Arlington and other veteran cemeteries in the U.S. are placed by the government, but they are not.

Individual wreaths sponsors, corporate donors, and volunteer truckers who participate in delivering the garlands to the national cemetery in Virginia, pay for the cost of the organization’s projects.

Since 1992, the organization has been responsible for marking the graves of 700,000 veterans buried across the country and overseas. The project at Arlington alone will require more than 100 volunteers, making it the group’s highest volume initiative.

Wreaths Across American was founded to continue and expand the annual wreath laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery begun in 1992 by Morrill Worcester, a Maine businessman.


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