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Thousands brave frigid temperatures to honor veterans

Arlington, VA- The cold air and icy conditions didn’t stop tens of thousands of people from making the trip to Arlington National Cemetery for National Wreaths Across America Day.

On Saturday, Dec. 17, more than 44,000 people braved the elements to participate in the somber ceremony. Sixty-five tractor trailers hauled in 245,000 wreaths and within two hours, all of the wreaths had been placed on the graves of fallen soldiers.

One military family stationed at Naval Air Station Patuxent River bundled up their children and headed out in the frigid weather to pay their respects to our veterans. Cristal Sumerlin said it was important to bring her children this year, “They’re not old enough to understand but being in the military it’s possible we’ll never be near D.C. again for the event so I thought it was important to take them and we can tell them about it and show them pictures.”

Sumerlin’s husband, Petty Officer Second Class (PO2) Victor Sumerlin, an Aviation Electronics Technician, and their two children, 3 year old Tristan and 20 month old Adelyn, spent three hours trying to get to the cemetery this morning due to the icy conditions and metro delays. But that didn’t freeze their spirits. “I did not see anyone complaining. You could tell the people who were here were passionate about it because they were willing to trek through the ice and the weather and the traffic to get here.” Sumerlin said.

This is the 25th year wreaths have been placed at Arlington National Cemetery. The theme for this year’s event was #SayTheirNames.  Sumerlin explained, “They say a person dies twice; the first is when they take their last breath, the second is the last time their name is said.” Organizers encouraged the volunteers to stop, say the name on the tombstone and recognize the veteran, their sacrifice, and thank them for their service.

Sumerlin explained why she wants to make this a family tradition, “I don’t want them to get wrapped up into the 'norms' of military life, and I want them to remember what it is all about. It’s not just daddy’s job, it’s about millions of men and women who fought for our country.”

The wreaths laid at Arlington this year were among more than 900,000 placed at more than 1,100 cemeteries nationwide.

It all started with one wreath maker from Maine. Morrill Worcester donated 5,000 wreaths to Arlington back in 1992. He continued, without recognition, for years. In 2007, Worcester and several others formed the non-profit Wreaths Across America. The event is now held in all 50 states. Worcester wants people to remember our fallen heroes, honor those who served, and teach our children about the sacrifices made by veterans and their families.

Contact Joy Shrum at j.shrum@thebaynet.com

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