Thousands of volunteers gather at Fort Smith’s National Cemetery to place wreaths on headstones Dec. 8 for the Christmas Honors organization.
Approximately 16,300 wreaths are placed in less than four minutes, each one symbolizing gratitude community members have towards the veterans and honoring their memories.
“We feel that it is every citizen’s responsibility to do whatever they can to help educate the next generation and to help them pay proper respects to our country’s precious veterans and their families who shared them,” Christmas Honors chairman Phillip Merry said.
Wreath assembly workshop occurs Dec. 5 at the Fort Smith Convention Center. Christmas Honors accepts donations of any amount. Wreaths cost $5 and last for five years after their purchase. On Jan. 8 volunteers pick up wreaths and prepare them for storage and transportation.
“When laying the wreaths you see all the people who died for our country and see what they did. Not everyone has a family member to celebrate Christmas with and my laying the wreaths, you just kind of connect with them,” junior JROTC member Kaela Hartman said.
Lasting 30 minutes on Dec. 8, with the official ceremony starting at 11. Families of the veterans may arrive at 8 a.m. and lay the wreaths on family member’s headstones. Christmas Honors asks that volunteers place no wreaths on headstones other than family member’s until 11.
“My grandpa was a Vietnam War veteran. Just being able to be near his grave and say, ‘Hey, I’m here,’ is just like celebrating Christmas with your loved one,” Hartman said.