Exchange Club hosts Wreaths Across America - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Exchange Club hosts Wreaths Across America

November 21st, 2022 SanTan Sun News
Exchange Club hosts Wreaths Across America
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SanTan Sun News Staff

For the first time since 2013, the Arizona State Capitol will join more than 3,000 locations across the U.S. and international sites to host National Wreaths Across America Day on Dec. 17.

And keeping an East Valley tradition, both the Exchange Club of Chandler and Valley of the Sun Mortuary and Cemetery are planning their seventh annual participating in the nationwide effort to remember the sacrifices of veterans who have passed away.

The Exchange Club of Chandler started the local observance but over the years, organizations such as Chandler Elks Lodge #2429 and the Exchange Club of Phoenix in Ahwatukee have become involved in remembering over 3,100 veterans buried at the Valley of the Sun Cemetery, 10940 E. Chandler Heights Road, Chandler.

Last year, approximately 2,800 wreaths laid on graves in Valley of the Sun Cemetery, according to Mark Whitaker, who leads the wreaths campaign for the Exchange Club of Chandler.

“We will need help from the community to achieve the goal of sponsoring 3,100 wreaths,” he said.

The annual event consists of laying out the wreaths after a memorial ceremony. Volunteers gather around 8 a.m. Dec. 17 – coffee, hot chocolate and donuts are provided – and at 9 a.m. begin laying the wreaths.

“Each wreath symbolizes the commitment to remember and honor our nation’s veterans and teach our children about freedom and the sacrifice required to maintain our freedom,” Whitaker said.

“There will be an educational activity for children to help them learn about veterans. As wreaths are laid, we ask that the volunteers respectfully remember the veteran by saying the veteran’s name aloud.”

The formal ceremony will start at 10 a.m. and will be streamed on Facebook Live!

Until Tuesday, Nov. 29, people can sponsor a wreath with a $15 tax-deductible donation to wreathsacrossamerica.org/AZ0084P.

“Whether you sponsor a wreath or not, we will need many volunteers to help,” Whitaker said.

Nationally, the nonprofit created to “Remember, Honor, and Teach” young people about those who have served is responsible for wreath laying at Arlington National Cemetery lays more than two million wreaths across the country.

In addition local memorial ceremonies Dec. 17, there will be a ceremonial wreath laying at the State Capitol Building, Wesley Bolin Plaza,1700 W. Washington St., Phoenix.

“I hope this will be an annual tradition for Arizona and remind us, particularly during the holidays, of how much has been given by our service members,” said the State Capitol WAA Coordinator Kelly McDonald.

The 2022 theme is, “Find a Way to Serve” and the inspiration for this year’s theme was Rosie the Riveters, also called “Rosies,” McDonald said.

“These women pulled together to do the work that needed to be done for our freedom during WWII and encourages youth to get involved in their own communities to serve,” McDonald said.

According to the U.S. Department of Defense, a Maine family that started this tradition got an eager reception to their proposal.

“Several volunteers stepped up to help, including veterans from American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars posts and a truck company owner who transported the wreaths to Arlington, Virginia, where a small ceremony was held at the cemetery’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier,” according to department.

This remained a small yearly tradition for nearly 15 years until a photo taken at the 2005 ceremony went viral.

“Almost immediately, thousands of people wanted to know how to help or how they could begin a similar tradition in their states,” the Defense Department said.

By 2008, it had become a tradition at dozens of cemeteries across the country and has continued to grow, with more than two million graves at over 2,100 cemeteries.

The last day to sponsor a wreath for 2022 is Nov. 29, which is Giving Tuesday.

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