Wreaths Across America event returning to New Bern

Wreaths Across America New Bern (Courtesy photo)

Wreaths Across America event is set for Dec. 16 at New Bern National Cemetery, located at 1711 National Ave.  

The ceremony will begin at 12 p.m. The name of each veteran buried at the cemetery will be read aloud, with a wreath placement immediately following. Family members will place the wreaths on their loved one’s headstone and then volunteers will place the remaining wreaths. 

The local Wreaths Across America ceremony focuses on honoring veterans through the laying of remembrance wreaths on headstones in New Bern National Cemetery, which was built in 1867 after the Civil War. According to the National Parks Service, the cemetery contains over 6,700 headstones, including the graves of more than 1,000 unknown veterans. 

Buses from New Bern Parks and Recreation will be available the day of the event to shuttle residents from Ruth’s Chapel Church on Oaks Road to the cemetery from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Limited street parking will also be available.

Each of the live balsam wreaths that will be placed during the event are sponsored at a cost of $17. According to the Wreaths Across America website, as of Tuesday evening 3,883 wreaths, or 57.3%, had been sponsored.

During a presentation before the New Bern Board of Aldermen on Nov. 14, Addie Yates spoke on behalf of her husband Kevin Yates, the Wreaths Across America coordinator. She explained that the age of New Bern’s National Cemetery and the nature of military service can make it difficult to find enough wreath sponsors each year. 

“Military families don’t stay in the area once their family has been interred here, they are transplants who aren’t connected to the cemetery.” she noted. “And with 1,000 being unknown (soldiers) they do not have family members to ensure that each headstone has a wreath and are remembered during the ceremony.”

On Dec. 14 at 9 a.m. the truck carrying the wreaths will be escorted to New Bern National Cemetery by local law enforcement and motorcyclists. Once the truck arrives volunteers will help unload the wreaths.  

Another way to participate in Wreaths Across America is the wreath retirement ceremony, which Yates said has become nearly as popular as placing the wreaths. This year’s retirement ceremony will take place on Jan. 13 at 9 a.m. 

For information on how to sponsor a wreath or volunteer, visit the Wreaths Across America website, wreathsacrossamerica.org/pages/16691/overview.

In 1992, Morrill Worcester, owner of Worcester Wreath Company of Harrington, Maine, decided to find a use for the surplus of wreaths his company had after the holiday season. The extra 5,000 wreaths were placed draped on the graves in Arlington National Cemetery. In 2005 a photo of snowy gravestones covered with wreaths at the cemetery received widespread circulation on the internet. Two years later, the founders along with veterans’ groups and individuals, formed Wreaths Across America, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, to help expand their efforts.

In 2022, Wreaths Across America placed more than 2.7 million sponsored veterans’ wreaths on headstones of US service members at 3,702 participating locations.

By Todd Wetherington, co-editor. Send an email with questions or comments.