“The main goal is to place wreaths on headstones to help remember that each one of these veterans died for our country,” said Alex. “It is important to know that we are able to have our freedom because of them. It’s an important project.”
The project is Wreaths Across America, a nonprofit organization formed in 2007 as an extension of the Arlington Wreath project. The Arlington event, begun in 1992 by wreath company owner Morrill Worcester of Maine, who placed 5,000 holiday wreaths that year on the tombstones of veterans in Arlington National Cemetery. Since then, the effort has grown to include the Wreaths Across America effort, held on the second Saturday of December.
This weekend, Alex, who is a member of a local teen Civil Air Patrol squadron, in conjunction with the Wreaths program, will help lay wreaths at the San Francisco National Cemetery in The Presidio. As part of the project, Alex and his squadron spent months soliciting local businesses, organizations and groups for donations. Fifteen dollars pays for one wreath, and this year Alex’s squadron raised more than $1,500 in sponsorships.
“This is the first time we’ve participated,” said Lynn Jorgensen Broom, Alex’s mom. “My husband, who is a Coast Guard auxilerist, will also be there representing the Merchant Mariners and placing a wreath. It’s going to be a family event. We’re very excited.”
The mission of Wreaths Across America is to “Remember, Honor and Teach.” The effort to remember each fallen serviceman remains the focal point of the project. Today nearly 500 locations nationwide participate in the event. Worcester, whose family donates to Arlington every year, described his motivation behind the event.
“I was 21 years old when I started Worcester Wreath,” he said in a recent press release. “That is the same average age as the soldier who made the ultimate sacrifice in pursuit and defense of the freedoms we enjoy today. The way I see it, they gave me the opportunity to develop and enjoy my business; to raise my family. If our efforts increase awareness of their sacrifices and those of the families who will be without loved ones on these holidays, it is the least I can do. I only wish I could decorate each grave.”
For Alex, the Wreaths Across America project has been a personal as well as a group experience.
“I have gained experience from getting the Wreaths Across America sponsorships and my public speaking skills that will benefit me forever in the future,” said Alex. “But it’s also been amazing to see the gratitude from the people I’ve talked to that someone my age would spend so much time on a veterans project such as this. It’s been great.”
Saturday’s event, which begins at 9 a.m., is open to the public. For information on the Wreaths Across America Project, go to www.wreathsacrossamerica.org.