Every year for Christmas, Wreaths Across America (WAA) places memorial wreaths on the graves of U.S. military service personnel buried at national veterans’ cemeteries. This year’s event, which was held nationwide on Dec. 15, included a stop at the Sam’s Distribution Center, 451 FM 696 in Dayton. This is the fourth year for the Dayton location to participate.
To mark the occasion, a special ceremony attended by dozens of dignitaries, including Liberty County Sheriff Bobby Rader and Liberty-Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce Director Mary Ann Campbell, veterans from the Nolan D.Pickett VFW Post 5621 of Liberty and American Legion Post 512 of Dayton, Sam’s employees and community members, was held Dec. 14 outside the Sam’s Distribution Center in Dayton with the Center’s manager Johnny Jarolik officiating.
Providing background on the 26-year-old organization, Jarolik said, “Wreaths Across America was started in 1992 with the donation and laying of 5,000 Christmas wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery by Morrill Worcester of the Worcester Wreath Company. This became an annual journey for Mr.Worcester.”
Last year, WAA and its national network of volunteers laid 1.56 million remembrance wreaths at 1,433 locations in the United States and beyond.
“This annual journey from Maine to Arlington National Cemetery has become known as the world’s largest veterans’ day parade with stops along the way at schools, monuments, veterans’ homes and communities like Dayton, Texas, to remind people how important it is to remember, honor and teach,” Jarolik said. “Walmart is now in its 11th year of participation and has six different convoys. This week more than 100 Walmart drivers hauled 100,000 wreaths nearly 40,000 miles and stopping at 40 different distribution centers on their way to national veterans’ cemeteries across the United States. We want to thank our veterans because we know freedom isn’t free.”
Jason James, the asset protection manager for the Dayton Sam’s Distribution Center, explained that funding for Wreaths Across America comes from businesses like Walmart Inc., the parent company of Sam’s Distribution Center, organizations and individuals.
“The convoy of Walmart trucks began on Dec. 9 at Wreaths Across America headquarters in Columbia Falls, Maine. This particular trailer behind me is heading to the veterans’ cemetery in Houston. The veterans’ cemetery in Houston is 85,000 graves on 40 acres,” James said.
The Honor Guard from the Nolan D. Pickett VFW Post 5621 performed a gun salute, which was followed by presentations of wreaths to representatives of both military posts.
By Vanesa Brashier, firstname.lastname@example.org