National Cemetery During The Holiday Season

The effort to place holiday wreaths on the graves of veterans is a long-running national campaign.

Valley of the Sun Mortuary and Cemetery and the Chandler Exchange Club will host the fifth annual Wreaths Across America memorial at its graves for military veterans Dec. 19.

“We are very proud to honor area veterans with this dedication service,” said Brent Bouche, general manager of the cemetery at 10940 East Chandler Heights Road.

The Chandler Exchange Club is soliciting individuals, businesses and community service organizations to sponsor wreaths for the more than 2,700 veterans known to be buried in the cemetery.

Michael Whitaker, a member of the Chandler Exchange Club, noted with a grant of $5,000 from Northrup Grumman, the wreath count has grown to almost 1,000 wreaths, but the club is hoping for donations to put wreaths on the other 1,700 graves so that all the veterans are honored.

Wreaths Across America finds its roots in one family’s tribute in 1992, when a Maine family that owns a tree farm had a surplus of wreaths during the holiday season.

The family sought the help of their local congressman to put the spares on those graves at Arlington National Cemetery that were least visited.

“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 the U.S. Defense 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 traditional at dozens of cemeteries across the country and has continued to grow, with more than 2.2 million graves across the country now decorated with a wreath at more than 2,100 cemeteries.

The ceremony and wreath-lacing at Valley of the Sun will be different this year because of the pandemic, Whitaker said, and only 50 people will be allowed to participate.

“Unfortunately, we cannot have the hundreds of volunteers from previous years, but we will stream the ceremony on Facebook Live for those who want watch the ceremony,” Whitaker said.

He stressed that regardless of the limited participation, the cemetery still needs wreaths for the veterans’ graves.

An individual wreath sponsorship costs $15, and a family pack of four wreaths is available for $60. A small business sponsorship for $150 will supply 10 wreaths. 

Go to wreathsacrossamerica.org/AZ0084P to sponsor a wreath for the Valley of the Sun Cemetery. 

The Chandler Exchange Club, chartered in 2013, is part of a national network of community service clubs across the nation. 

The club name is derived from “exchanging” ideas to better serve the local community.

Valley of the Sun Mortuary and Cemetery has been serving Chandler and the East Valley since 1963.