Arlington National Cemetery has canceled its annual "Wreaths Across America" event for 2020, citing concerns over crowd size in the midst of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
What are the details?
" Wreaths Across America" is a nationwide event held at cemeteries across the country, involving the laying of wreaths at the graves of America's fallen heroes each December. Its stated mission is to "remember our fallen U.S. veterans, honor those who serve," and "teach your children the value of freedom."
This year's event is slated for Dec. 19, but America's most coveted veterans' cemetery will not be participating.
"Due to the current COVID-19 situation across the nation and within the National Capital Region, it is with great regret that Arlington National Cemetery is canceling Wreaths Across America at Arlington National Cemetery and the Soldiers' and Airmen's Home Cemetery," according to a news release from Arlington National Cemetery on Monday.
Karen Durharn-Aguilera, executive director of the Office of Army National Cemeteries and Arlington National Cemetery, said in a statement:
"We did not make this decision lightly, Despite the controls developed to disperse potential crowds in time and space, and required personal safety protocols, we determined that hosting any event of this scale risked compromising our ability to accomplish our core mission of laying veterans and their eligible family members to rest. We reviewed various options to safely execute this long standing event and held numerous consultations with WAA leadership and local government and public health officials. We understand that although this is disappointing for so many, we could no longer envision a way to safely accommodate the large number of visitors we typically host during this event."
Arlington National Cemetery Superintendent Charles "Ray" Alexander said that organizers' "strong hope" is that the event can be held at ANC next year.
"While many of our families and visitors associate the wreath event with the holiday season, we thank all the thousands of volunteers who had planned to take this time to Honor, Remember, and Explore those who are laid to rest at our nation's most hallowed ground," Alexander said. "We invite everyone to virtually visit the cemetery through our multimedia platforms @ArlingtonNatl."
The "Wreaths Across America" organization expressed its disappointment in Arlington's decision, issuing a statement saying, "As an organization, we are shocked by this unexpected turn of events. To say we are devastated, would be an understatement." The group noted that the event will still move forward at more than 2,400 other participating cemeteries across the U.S.
The press released continued, "Like our U.S. Military, we will adjust and adapt, and work together towards fulfilling the mission which is to Remember, Honor and Teach. our Gold Star Families have lost too much for us to just give up."
#RememberHonorTeach 🇺🇸 https://t.co/eqveS1cb3D— Wreaths Across America (@Wreaths Across America) 1605576483.0
WRC-TV reported that "coronavirus cases and deaths are climbing in D.C., Maryland and Virginia — with big jumps in cases in Virginia and Maryland.
The news of Arlington's decision was met overwhelmingly with disappointment and some frustration from followers on its Twitter feed. Several respondents argued that with voting in person and protests being allowed to continue, the cemetery might reconsider.
Conservative radio host Dana Loesch wrote, "Really sorry to read this. My family looks forward to kicking off Christmas by honoring those who served and learning about their service while laying wreaths. (Usually it's cold and we're all covered up, including faces.)"
Really sorry to read this. My family looks forward to kicking off Christmas by honoring those who served and learni… https://t.co/akeOkYxiTz— Dana Loesch (@Dana Loesch) 1605572185.0
Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) protested Arlington's decision, tweeting, "This decision to cancel #wreathsacrossamerica must be reversed immediately. Critical thinking must win out over emotion. Large areas, outside and well spaced, with masks on, is perfectly safe. Our fallen deserve to be remembered."