Wreaths Across America: How to Honor U.S. Veterans This Holiday Season

by Sokolove Law

This past week, over 1,100 wreath-laying ceremonies took place simultaneously across the United States. These ceremonies, held annually during the holiday season, typically in the 10-day period leading up to Christmas, are part of a larger effort to celebrate and honor our country’s brave and deceased veterans.

Many of these veterans died in combat, and many more died from post-service health concerns, including cancer. The annual honorary day is known as National Wreaths Across America Day.

How the Day Works

Wreaths across America Day is coordinated by the Civil Air Patrol, an auxiliary branch of the U.S. Air Force; one that contributes to the military by way of aerospace education search and rescue teams. The Civil Air Patrol also spends a great deal of its time fundraising for honorary military efforts, including raising money for holiday wreaths to be laid on veterans’ graves.

The purpose of the Wreaths Across America effort is 3-fold: “To Remember our fallen U.S. veterans. To honor those who serve. And to teach our children the value of freedom.”

When volunteers lay wreaths across graves, part of the tradition is to say aloud the name of the fallen veteran. According to the official webpage slogan, “A person dies twice: once when they take their final breath, and later, the last time their name is spoken.”

Fighting the Fight Abroad and at Home

The wounds of service and war go far, far beyond what may meet the eye. From mental health issues to invisible disabilities to pain and illness that persist long after they’ve left the battlefield, veterans have faced — and continue to face — a multitude of health troubles unique to their service.

Dr. Stephen Hunt, the national director of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Post-Deployment Integrative Care Initiative, said the following:

“Folks returning from combat have a constellation of health concerns, including physical issues, psychological issues, and psychosocial issues concerning things like work and family… This is a population that has unique health care needs that need to be addressed. It’s something that really needs to be done by a team. We can’t do it without the collaboration of other providers, and the knowledge and presence of the community.”

Veterans and Mesothelioma

One of the health battles facing thousands of veterans is the horror of asbestos-related disease, including mesothelioma, a cancer that attacks the lining of one’s lungs. In fact, the link between veterans and mesothelioma is significant and not easily ignored. Veterans who served in any branch of the U.S. military account for 33 percent of call mesothelioma cases in the United States.

Because asbestos was known for many decades of the early-to-mid twentieth century as an inexpensive, effective, and supposedly safe form of insulation that was both heat and fire retardant, ship builders used it in building nearly every ship commissioned by the U.S. military for much of the 20th century – likely causing asbestos exposure that linked many veterans to mesothelioma forever.

This battle is not easily fought and not easily overcome. Mesothelioma is a slow-growing cancer often takes between 20-50 years to present itself, and the prognosis after discovery is not good — often only between 2 to 18 months. This is yet another major health concern that veterans endure, and one for which they need desperately our help, love, and support.

Keeping the Important Tradition Alive Requires Your Support and Effort

To keep the tradition going, the Civil Air Patrol and our amazing, honorable veterans rely in big part on our selfless donations and volunteering. To donate or volunteer for Wreaths Across America 2017 effort, please visit the official website here.

Volunteers are always welcome at events, including those held at local cemeteries on National Wreaths Across America Day. Volunteers are also welcome to donate their time, their trucks and automobiles (for transportation), and to lead the many volunteer groups participating in the awareness campaign. Companies, too, can also volunteer at events as part of the national effort.

Donations of any amount are always welcome; it’s the perfect way to show our brave men and women in uniform that we honor and respect them all, and all of the sacrifices they have made to protect American ideals, freedoms, and ways of life.

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