Today I leave for Arlington, Virginia, as I have on this weekend almost every year for the last ten years. Tomorrow morning, my family and I will bundle up in the warmest layers we can find and join thousands of other volunteers in helping to place more than 200,000 Christmas wreaths on the graves of fallen soldiers, veterans, and their loved ones buried at Arlington National Cemetery, as part of National Wreaths Across America Day.
This week's "Anything But Routine" episode talked about Wreaths Across America Day - I hope you've had a chance during this busy holiday lead-up to take a few minutes and listen. Even better, I hope you're able to take a break from holiday preparations and join in tomorrow morning at a military cemetery near you that's participating in this event - you can find the full listing of participating cemeteries at wreathsacrossamerica.org.
Last year, my family and I participated in the first Wreaths Across America Day at Grandview Cemetery, in my hometown of Johnstown, Pennsylvania. It was wonderful, and that may be where we end up helping out in years to come. But there's something about Arlington I can't put into words. And not just Arlington itself, but Arlington after the volunteers have completed their task, and whichever way you turn, as far as you can see, are white tombstones with cheery live bough Christmas wreaths and red bows, no matter where you look, is beautiful, and touching, and humbling. Not to mention heart wrenching in the newer sections, where family members themselves decorate the fresh graves of soldiers lost in Iraq and Afghanistan, among other places. Photos, and handwritten cards, and mementoes, and personal Christmas trees and ornaments - so many things depicting the collective grief of families celebrating the holidays one member short, and in some cases more than one. I always wind up crying when I walk through those rows. It makes being able to lay wreaths at the graves of those who no longer have family to visit and do it themselves that much more meaningful.
I'm glad we're able to make it back to Arlington this year. It's one of my favorite family traditions, and it feels so good to be able to do something special for those who did so much more that place a wreath somewhere for us.
If you're participating in Wreaths Across America Day tomorrow, or if you have in the past, leave a comment down below and let me know - I'd love to hear about your experience.
Have a great weekend!