Every December, volunteers from across the country visit dozens of national cemeteries, including Arlington National Cemetery, to lay wreaths at the graves of fallen heroes. Their actions support Wreaths Across America with the mission to “Remember, Honor and Teach” of the sacrifices of our fallen Veterans. However, each year, fewer people volunteer their time toward the cleanup of these wreaths. That is when groups like the American Legion Auxiliary (ALA) Unit 1 in DC step in to help.
This year was the second year in a row that the auxiliary brought its members and supporters to help with the wreath cleanup.
As a Veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan, and as a military spouse, I know the sacrifices made by the men and women who wear the uniform, as well as the sacrifices made by their families.
On a rainy day in February 2005, I stood in Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery, with family and friends from my hometown, to bury one of our own, U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Zack Wobler. I did not serve with Wobler, but he was a close family friend, and we had been deployed around the same time in 2003. Our families had shared many stories and supported each other in uncertain times.
While Wobler is not the only brother or sister I have lost in this war, it was the first time I attended a funeral at Arlington. I will never forget that day. That was the day I knew I would dedicate my life to serving my fellow Servicemembers, Veterans and their families. Today, I honor the sacrifice that more than 2,300 of my brothers and sisters have made, in any way that I can, which includes working with the ALA Unit 1 and the Wreaths Across American cleanup.
It is always an honor to be able to serve Veterans, Servicemembers and their families.
ALA Unit 1 in DC strives to honor and remember all Veterans; helping with the Wreaths Across America cleanup is one way that we do this. No matter what the weather brings, our auxiliary is proud to continue to be part of this event, to help remember and honor our fallen heroes, and to teach the next generation to do the same.
We welcome you to join us in service at next year’s cleanup and all year-round! If you’re not in the Washington, D.C., area, we welcome you to contact your local American Legion Auxiliary unit to learn more about the volunteer opportunities focused on Veterans, Servicemembers and their families.
“To be killed in war is not the worst that can happen. To be lost is not the worst that can happen … to be forgotten is the worst.”
-Pierre Claeyssens (1909-2003)
Editor’s note: The American Legion is only one of many groups that assist in the wreath cleanup for Wreaths Across America. For more information on how to help with cleanup in your area, contact your local (or the national) Wreaths Across America group, a military or Veteran service organization or the military cemetery at which you’d like to volunteer.
Victoria Pridemore is an Iraq and Afghanistan Veteran, a sergeant first class in the Virginia Army National Guard, president of the American Legion Auxiliary Unit 1 in DC, and a Veteran outreach representative for Excelsior College. You can find out more about ALA Unit 1 in DC at www.ALAUnit1inDC.org, or more about Victoria, at www.linkedin.com/in/victoriapridemore/.