As millions of wreaths were being laid on veterans’ graves across the country Saturday, the spirit of Wreaths Across America shined extra bright in Uvalde, Texas this year after tragedy.
On Wreaths Across America Day, which was Dec. 17 this year, dozens of people gather to honor veterans in 3,700 registered communities before laying the wreaths, including at Arlington National Cemetery.
Volunteers plan their fundraising and day-of ceremony.
"(Wreaths Across America) has very local flavor even though it’s a national organization," Karen Worcester, a member of the organization’s founding family, told LiveNOW from FOX.
Christmas wreaths placed by volunteers sit in front of headstones at Arlington National Cemetery on December 17, 2022 in Arlington, Virginia. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
However, the volunteer planning didn’t transpire this year in one particular community — Uvalde, Texas.
"Last year, we were able to get all graves covered (at Hillcrest Cemetery)," said Melissa Federspill of the Uvalde Leader News. "This year, with the school shooting, there was too much going on to try to push for Wreaths Across America."
But, the generosity of volunteers from thousands of miles away is still getting the job done.
A volunteer group from Alton, Illinois, stepped in to help.
Their group had raised more than enough wreaths to honor all of their local veterans, so they voted to use 600 wreaths from their "bank" to send to Uvalde. That amount not only covers Uvalde’s locally interred veterans, but also the entire community.
"Our members were so honored to do so," said Margaret Hopkins, a WAA volunteer for Alton National Cemetery in Illinois. "We are elated to help this community."
A 4H club local to Uvalde placed the wreaths on Saturday, thanks to the leadership of two teenagers.
"I’ll tell you, we’re in good shape in this country. If you look at the people, the boots on the ground, that are in these communities, you’ll see how much we care about each other in the country," Worcester told LiveNOW.
"That’s what the Wreaths Across America family is all about," she continued. "It doesn’t matter, any veteran buried anywhere in this country, deserves the recognition."
She said more than 2.7 million wreaths were laid on Saturday, in a tradition that has grown exponentially since it began with just her family in 1992 at Arlington.
Worcester says one of the main missions of the tradition is to teach kids and the next generations the value of the cost of freedom.
"We ask them to always say the names (as they place the wreath). We believe that a person dies twice. The first time when their heart stops beating and the life leaves their body, but the final time is when the name is spoken for the very last time," Worcester explained.
She says saying the names also introduces kids in a "personal" way to the men and women who gave their lives for freedom.
Wreaths Across America is a nonprofit organization, and its mission of laying wreaths on the graves of veterans is now carried out in locations in all 50 states and beyond.
For more information or to sponsor a wreath please visit www.wreathsacrossamerica.org.
This story was reported from Detroit.