ARLINGTON, Va. – Wreaths Across America, the national nonprofit responsible for the placement of veterans' wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery each December and at more than 1,235 local cemeteries nationwide, will hold its annual wreath retirement at Arlington on January 28, beginning at 8:45 a.m. Volunteers are encouraged to attend to help retrieve the 245,000 wreaths placed on Dec. 17, 2016, at this family-oriented, "all are welcome" event, the organization said in a prepared release.
"The wreath-laying tradition of Wreaths Across America extends beyond our work in December," said Karen Worcester, the group’s executive director. "Retiring the wreaths in January is a big part of the process, and we see this as another opportunity for thousands of people to again come together to remember, honor and teach, and say each name out loud."
The retirement process of the wreaths is another significant undertaking, and a responsibility the group takes seriously. Each live, balsam wreath is a gift of respect and appreciation, donated by a private citizen or organization and placed on the graves by volunteers as a small gesture of gratitude for the freedoms Americans enjoy. For centuries, fresh evergreens have been used as a symbol of honor and have served as a living tribute renewed annually. Wreaths Across America believes the tradition represents a living memorial that honors veterans, active duty military and their families.
Details for the wreath retirement day at Arlington National Cemetery are:
Sign-up or registration is not required to participate. Just show up at the designated time and place.
A short volunteer instructional briefing begins at 8:30 a.m. at the McClellan Gate (also known as McClellan Arch) located off Eisenhower Drive between sections 33 and 12, on McClellan Drive. Wreath clean up starts at approximately 8:45 a.m.
There will be no general public parking at the Welcome Center parking lot until after 3 p.m.
Due to the limited and restricted parking requirements, the group encourages volunteers to use the Metro rail system.
Visitors and volunteers should expect long lines and crowded conditions when entering and leaving the Arlington National Cemetery station.
The cemetery's Welcome Center parking lot opens at 8 a.m. Parking is free until 2 p.m. Only vehicles with permanent Arlington family gravesite passes and those with valid handicap permits are allowed to park at the Welcome Center parking lot.
Vehicles with handicap parking permits will be accommodated in the cemetery Administrative Building parking lot, until it reaches capacity. Overflow vehicles with handicap permits will be accommodated in the Arlington parking garage, until it reaches capacity.
All pedestrian gates at Arlington open at 8 a.m.