Did you ever experience something that was at the same time beautiful and solemn? Profound and humbling, yet something that swells your heart and makes you proud? Thousands of volunteers experienced that range of emotions Saturday as they participated in Wreaths Across America, a one-day effort to lay wreaths on military graves in 1,600 locations across America, at sea and abroad to honor service members who have served and sacrificed.
My sister Betsy, her husband Brian and their son Liam were among the thousands who volunteered to lay wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery outside of Washington D.C. This was their first time volunteering, and for them it was personal. Our Uncle Charlie is buried at Arlington. Army Lt. Col. Charles Albert Linaberger served two tours in Vietnam. He never talked a lot about it, but the Bronze Star Medal and Purple Heart (both with Oak Leaf Cluster to indicate multiple citations) he was awarded show the level of his heroism on behalf of our country.
Betsy described the scene as breathtaking. “It’s so beautiful because the headstones are white and the red and the green of the wreaths is so vivid.” This video she shot will give you a taste of what it was like:
People stood in line to get inside the cemetery to volunteer. “There were people with little kids in strollers, people in wheelchairs, every age,” even though it was 43 degrees and raining, said Betsy. “I don’t think that holds anyone back from going.”
On site was a convoy of specially “wrapped” tractor trailers, which brought the wreaths down from New England. There were more than enough to mark every headstone from every conflict, even the graves of soldiers who fought in the Civil War.
Betsy and her family were assigned to lay wreaths in a section of the cemetery where the graves represented servicemen and women of different ages and service, from WWI and WWII, through Korea and Vietnam. As they went row by row, the family paused to read each name, and my brother in law Brian even found a headstone with a man who shared his birthday.
Our whole family has visited Arlington many times, but Betsy’s family was the first of our clan to go at Christmastime. She says they’ll be back. “I felt great. It’s being there and feeling like you did something good, taking a few hours out of my Saturday to honor someone who really sacrificed for our country.”
“My sacrifice is certainly not as profound as theirs. But everyone’s there for the same reason, for the right reason, and you feel a sense of community.”
In this day and age of so much disagreement in our country, isn’t it good to know that on one day at least, people from many different walks of life could agree to come together to honor the men and women who sacrificed for our freedom?