ARLINGTON, Va. - Tens of thousands of volunteers descended onto Arlington National Cemetery early Saturday morning for the annual Wreaths Across America event.
The long-running tradition brings people from all over the area and country to place holiday wreaths at each and every veteran’s grave -- around 400,000 of them.
"I read all of them I read the number when they were born and dead," says one boy,
The meaning of placing a wreath at a veteran’s grave is not lost on even some of the youngest volunteers who came to Arlington National Cemetery early Saturday morning.
"When you place a wreath on a grave of somebody who served, we instruct people to say the name outloud. It makes a connection," says Karin Worcester.
Organizers and founders Karin and her husband Morrill Worcester are proud to say this is the 26th annual Wreaths Across America event in D.C., where tens of thousands of people from the area and all over the country attend.
"I was here 26 years ago with the first wreaths and it was just a handful of people, I think a dozen people. It took us one trailer load -- about six or seven hours to put those out. And look at what it is now," says Morrill Worcester.
What began as a small donation of leftover wreaths from the Worcester family business, has grown into a D.C. tradition many look forward to as a way to pay respect to the almost 400,000 military service members and their families laid to rest.
"We have some family friends who have a dad buried here and we decided to join them and its kind of a bucket list thing to do and I'm in awe," says one volunteer.
While frigid temperatures, and dusting of snow did not stop anyone from lining up and fanning out, many are proud of the experience and its meaning.
"Its a great experience out here, even though it is really cold I really love it out here," says a volunteer.
"I think that was one of the neatest things waiting in line this morning, seeing how many people want to give back and just that love we feel for those who have given everything," says another volunteer.
A display of respect now comes full circle, just like the wreaths.
"It's so good that people take this time during the holidays when they are so busy. I always say though if their family is like ours, coming here to participate, they get more out of it than they give. It's special," says Karin Worcester.