At Arlington Cemetery, Christmas wreaths ‘honor those who have fallen’

December 15, 2015
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Article originally appeared on Washington Post

Marine Corps Pfc. Christian ­Erazo completed basic training just a few months ago, but he understood the importance of honoring those Marines who came before him, especially those who hoisted the American flag at Iwo Jima.

“Those men are my heroes,” ­Erazo, of Reston, Va., said after he place a Christmas wreath at the headstone of one of the three Marines from Iwo Jima who are buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

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Erazo was one of thousands of active-duty military members, teenagers, families and others who participated Saturday in Wreaths Across America in Arlington.

The organization began in 1992 after Maine businessman Morrill Worcester donated 5,000 wreaths to officials at Arlington National Cemetery. Since then, it’s grown exponentially, and on one Saturday in December, they lay Christmas wreaths on gravestones at Arlington and at other military cemeteries across the United States.

Wayne Hanson, chairman of the Wreaths Across America board, said 70,000 volunteers placed wreaths on about 240,00 headstones at Arlington. This year, 901,000 wreaths were placed at 1,100 locations nationwide, he said.

“This means a lot,” said Sarah Elliott, who laid a wreath on the grave of the sister she never knew. “She was stillborn,” Elliott said. “My mom was an Army major, and my dad was a sergeant when my sister died.”

Diane Hammond was part of a convoy from Maine that arrived at Arlington on Saturday for a formal program. She said her son was killed in Afghanistan on Aug. 8, 2011.

As she watched others lay wreaths, she said: “You see the good of America. This whole movement to honor those who have fallen is absolutely amazing.”

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