Wreaths Across America is a grassroots effort to honor those Veterans in our Veterans cemeteries with fresh Balsam Fir wreath. There is no government funding for this project. It is made possible through donations from individuals and businesses. And on Saturday, Dec. 17, national Wreaths Across America Day, more than 2.4 million wreaths will be placed to honor Veterans across the country and overseas at over 3,137 locations. It is all accomplished by volunteers. More than two million of them – and one third are children.
In the Knoxville area, there is a National Cemetery at 939 Tyson Street NW. It was started in 1863 during the Civil War and is the final resting spot for a little over 9,000 Veterans. Many of Knoxville’s luminaries have been laid to rest here, including University of Tennessee coaching legend, Gen. Robert Neyland.
We also have two Tennessee State Veterans’ cemeteries. One is located at 5901 Lyons View Pike, with 5,292 graves; the other is at 2200 East Governor John Sevier Highway. The latter location is the area’s “active cemetery,” with 15 to 20 funerals per week. There are some 4,000 currently buried here. Veterans interred in these three local cemeteries number more than 18,000. And at noon on Saturday, Dec. 17, hundreds of volunteers will be at these locations to honor the Veterans by respectfully placing wreaths on each headstone. There is no requirement for volunteers to sign up, they just need to be there shortly before noon.
It is said that a person dies twice. The first time is when they draw their final breath. The second time is when their name is no longer spoken. That is why the volunteers placing the wreaths are asked to carefully place the wreath against the headstone, then stand and say that Veterans name aloud. So they will not be forgotten.
The mission of Wreaths Across America is simple: "Remember, Honor, and Teach." Remember our fallen, Honor those who serve and Teach our children. This is a very family-oriented day, nearly a third of the volunteers placing wreaths are children. It’s the perfect place to start teaching our children that our freedom always comes with a cost.
Last year, 2021, the goal of honoring EVERY Veteran in our cemeteries was met for the first time. The leaders of the local effort have been working for 5 years to make Wreaths Across America an East Tennessee holiday tradition. It is becoming part of the area’s DNA. It’s a big task because it requires starting over every year with fund raising.
Sponsorship of a wreath is $15. Donors are welcome to sponsor as many as they wish.
This is the inaugural year for the Stem to Stone Society. The name represents the shearing of the Balsam Fir stem tips that are then used to create the wreaths that will be placed against the headstones. This unique society’s membership is made up of individuals and businesses who have stepped up to ensure that all of our Veterans will be honored with a wreath. Membership in the Society can be had with an annual tax-deductible gift of $1,000.
No matter the amount you wish to donate, you may write a check payable to Wreaths Across America and mail it to Wreaths Across America, Post Office Box 50054, Knoxville, TN 37950. Donations may also be made through the website www.knoxwreaths.org. Donating either way assures that your wreaths will be delivered to our local cemeteries.