Saturday marked the eighth annual Wreaths Across America event, a non-profit, nationwide program demonstrating respect for our fallen veterans at Christmastime.
Ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia drew thousands in attendance. The Wreaths Across America programs distributes holiday wreaths to more than 800 cemeteries nationwide, including the approximately 90,000 graves at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
Saturday’s mid-day ceremony at the Iowa Veterans Cemetery in Van Meter drew a smaller but equally fervent crowd. The cemetery opened in 2007 and is now the final resting place for more than 2,000 Iowa veterans and spouses.
The Iowa Veterans Cemetery’s involvement in Wreaths Across America began when Patrick Palmersheim, a U.S. Air Force veteran of the Vietnam War and past president of the Iowa Department of Veterans Affairs, raised the idea.
Palmersheim still leads the local organization. He was also the first administrator of the Iowa Veterans Cemetery. The Wreaths Across America program is more than a one-day event, he said.
“We also organize a week of events,” Palmersheim said, “including international veteran’s tributes, ceremonies at State Houses and a week-long ‘Veteran’s Parade’ between Maine and Virginia, where we stop along the way to spread our message about the importance of remembering our fallen heroes, honoring those who serve and teaching our children about the sacrifices made by veterans and their families to preserve our freedoms.”
Wreaths Across America formed in 2007 as an extension of the Arlington Wreath Project and now has more than 700 participating locations in all 50 states and 24 national veteran cemeteries on foreign soil.
Palmershiem said this week of events is made possible by thousands of volunteers who organize local ceremonies, raise funds to sponsor wreaths and participate in the events. The program receives no government funding and is paid for by individual wreath sponsors, corporate donors and volunteer truckers.