This past weekend, for the fourth year in a row, we volunteered at the Wreaths Across America event at Arlington National Cemetery. If you’re not familiar with it, Google it. It’s so amazing.
Normally we aim to arrive really early—before the cemetery gates open. This time, we pulled off the highway right around the time the gates were supposed to open. And immediately discovered that the Pentagon parking lot was already full. What? I seriously thought that the weather was going to limit the number of participants. Holy cow. I was wrong!
There’s only one way ‘round the lot, so we sat in that line, slowly inching forward as time ticked by. We ultimately decided to divide and conquer. My husband dropped us off when we got to the 9/11 Memorial. He took one for the team and continued to troll for parking while my friend and I joined the masses headed toward the cemetery. The crowd at the gate was massive, and I apologize to all the folks we jumped in front of … we’d been blindly following and only late in the game realized they were headed to the military ID only gate. We discovered our error about 20 yards from the riffraff entrance, and that’s where we merged into the sea of folks; budging in front of hoards of people who were clearly smarter than we were. Sorry about that, good people. And thank you for not calling us out on our rudeness.
Once through the gates, we tried to separate from the groups headed left and right via the paved streets. Over hill we went in search of a truck that wasn’t overly packed with volunteers. We passed a few lines by and randomly ended up at the intersection of sections 34, 18, and 3. By some miracle, the truck there didn’t run out of wreaths, so we were able to stay there, laying one wreath at a time while we waited for my husband to hunt us down. About 45 minutes, four texts and a phone call later, my husband found us. Of course, not before he’d laid a handful of wreaths at a truck on the other side of section 34.
Though it had been lightly raining the whole morning, it started seriously coming down just around the time we started laying wreaths. By the time we wrapped things up, we were thoroughly drenched.
But we didn’t care. It’s not about us. It’s about remembering those who sacrificed for us. Honoring their service. Saying their names. Being their witness. It was awesome to see so many kids there. Our boys weren’t able to join us this year, but they have in the past. It’s important to teach our children that freedom is not free.
So, yeah, we got wet. It was truly the very least we could do.
I will admit though, I was glad it wasn’t too cold. Wet and mild was infinitely better than the ice we had to deal with in 2016. Slip-sliding around the cemetery that year was challenging. I’ll be there regardless, but I won’t lie … I’m hoping December 14, 2019 is a sunny day.
Mark your calendars, folks! The next Wreaths Across America day is scheduled for December 14, 2019. There are events at cemeteries across the country, so check the WAA website to find the one nearest you. You’ll be glad you did.