While restricting attendance due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, VA Secretary Robert L. Wilkie said the scaled-down Wreaths Across America events ensure people remember Veterans.

Speaking and laying wreaths at Quantico National Cemetery in Virginia Dec. 18, Wilkie said honoring Veterans and their legacies is an important part of both organization’s missions.

“We die two deaths – first when the physical body stops and the second when we are forgotten,” he said. “Wreaths Across America ensures that our honored Veterans are never forgotten, that they never die that second death. In honoring and remembering our Veterans, we immortalize them and their legacies.”

VA Secretary Robert L. Wilkie places a wreath at Quantico National Cemetery in Virginia Dec. 18, 2020.

VA Secretary Robert L. Wilkie places a wreath at Quantico National Cemetery in Virginia Dec. 18, 2020.

The secretary said the event was small by design, but still fitting because of its meaning.

“It is appropriately modest for those ordinary Americans who were called upon in their lives to perform extraordinary things,” he said.

Even with small ceremonies, the service members honored during Wreaths Across America leave a lasting legacy for all Americans.

“For those we immortalize, they displayed a humility that belied their courage on the battlefield,” he said. “Their lives and legacies teach a lesson of sacrifice and honor for all Americans to revere.”

The secretary also said people should never forget those sacrifices, which all Americans benefit from.

“In this season of giving, we place these wreaths to memorialize the enormity of their service, and we pray that the modesty of our ceremony brightly reflects the depth of our gratitude – and the gratitude of our nation – for the invaluable gifts these Veterans have given to us and to the world,” he said.

History of events

For several years, the National Cemetery Administration has partnered with Wreaths Across America in planning and supporting the annual WAA program of laying wreaths for Veterans at national cemeteries. In previous years, these events drew hundreds of thousands of community coordinators and volunteers.

Veterans and their families can still participate in Wreaths Across America at national cemeteries, but there will be restrictions due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. This year, Wreaths Across America and VA have adjusted and implemented certain measures. This will minimize the number of people at national cemeteries in order to ensure the safety of all participants.

The Branch of Service – POW/MIA wreath laying ceremonies will not be open to the public. Local WAA organizers are modifying the gravesite wreath placement activities to incorporate health and safety precautions while still honoring Veterans. In these cases, WAA organizers and volunteers will place wreaths for those who wish to honor Veterans by sponsorship of a wreath.

For information on locating a participating cemetery, or how to sponsor a wreath, please see: https://www.wreathsacrossamerica.org.

Wreaths lie at Quantico National Cemetery in Virginia Dec. 18, 2020.

Wreaths lie at Quantico National Cemetery in Virginia Dec. 18, 2020.

By Air Force Veteran Adam Stump is a member of VA's Digital Media Engagement team.

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Published on Dec. 18, 2020

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