Posts Tagged ‘Wreathes Across America’

'Twas the Last Ride Before Christmas

‘Twas the Last Ride Before Christmas

I’m going to be taking some time off from work for the holidays, so this was my last D.C. bike ride for the year for this blog. I’m actually taking the next few weeks off because, as a Federal employee, if I do not use a specified amount of my accrued vacation time before the end of the year the government will take it away. But for this ride, I commuted to the office anyway. I then got on one of my bikes that I keep in the parking garage of the office building where I work, and spent the entire day just riding around the D.C. area to see and enjoy the Christmas decorations and holiday spirit, which can be found almost everywhere.  It was a great ride to end the year.

As I’ve stated previously in this blog, I am not a photographer. I’m just a guy that goes for bike rides on my lunch break at work, and takes a few snapshots of the places I go to and the things I see along the way. On this ride I took more photos than usual. My favorite photo (above) from this leisurely bike ride is the one of a Christmas tree and holiday wreath left at The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, with the image of both my bike and The Washington Monument reflecting off the polished granite panels containing the names of the servicemen and women who were killed or classified as missing in action during the Vietnam War. The photo seems to portray at the same time both the joy of the season as well as the solemnity of the memorial.

Some of the other photos (below) which I’ve included with this blog post show several of the places which I have already visited this year and then wrote about in this blog, as well as some other places I intend to visit again and learn more about in the coming year.  You can click on the thumbnails for full-size photos.

In order, these photos show: (1) Giant wreathes hanging at the front of Union Station in D.C., one of the busiest train stations in the country. You can get a sense of the size of the wreathes by comparing them to the size of the people standing beneath them. (2) Toy soldiers standing guard at the entrance to the Old Ebbit Grill on 15th Street, D.C.’s oldest bar and restaurant. (3) Holiday wreathes on the old Sun Trust Building on 15th Street, across the street from the U.S. Treasury Department Building. (4) Holiday garlands, wreathes and bows adorning the entrance to The Historic Willard Hotel. (5) The D.C. Fire Department’s Truck No. 3 Fire Station on 13th Street in northwest D.C., which is decorated and lit up with Christmas lights. (6) The Vietnam Women’s Memorial is one of the memorials where wreathes are laid by Wreathes Across America, the group that supplies the Christmas wreathes at Arlington National Cemetery. (7) The Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery, with a tomb guard in the foreground “walking the mat.” The wreathes in front of the sarcophagus and graves are also part of the tribute at the cemetery by Wreathes Across America. (8) Some of the more than 230,000 wreathes at Arlington National Cemetery which adorn the rows of white marble headstones. (9) Wreathes were also placed by Wreathes Across America at gravesites at The John F. Kennedy Eternal Flame. (10) The Woodrow Wilson House, the home of the only President to remain in D.C. after leaving office, is also decorated for the holidays. (11) One of the several outdoor holiday markets that spring up throughout the city in the time leading up to Christmas. This one is The Downtown Holiday Market, which is currently in its 11th year.  (12)  If you’re fortunate, you can also happen upon live musiccal performances.  This one was taking place on the sidewalk in front of the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery between 7th and 9th Streets in the city’s Chinatown neighborhood.  (13) The Krispy Kreme doughnut shop across from The Fountain at DuPont Circle is an excellent place to stop for an early morning snack when riding around the city to see the holiday decorations, especially when the “Hot Now” neon light is lit up.  And even they decorated for the season. (14) An outdoor craft show and flea market on Capitol Hill. (15) A Christmas tree stand at Eastern Market selling fresh-cut Christmas trees. (16) The White House gates included decorative bows for the holidays. (17) The National Christmas Tree on the Ellipse at President’s Park just south of the White House. (18) The Capitol Christmas Tree on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol Building grounds. (19) Festively decorated Christmas trees, like this one, could be seen in the windows of stores and office buildings on almost every block.  (20) And the final photo is of a bike-themed ornament that I saw on the Capitol Christmas Tree, which seemed too relevant to not be included in this blog post.

I’d like to take this opportunity to wish all of you reading this, whether you are here in D.C. and anywhere else around the world, a very Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year.

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The Wreathes at Arlington National Cemetery

The Wreathes at Arlington National Cemetery

For the past 23 years, one of the most iconic annual holiday traditions in the D.C. area has been the placing of hundreds of thousands of evergreen Christmas wreathes with red bows at the white headstones marking the rows and rows of gravesites in Arlington National Cemetery.  This past Saturday, December 13th, volunteers descended on Arlington National to help an organization named “Wreathes Across America” continue the tradition, now officially known as National Wreathes Across America Day, by placing wreaths again this year. In recognition and in support of this event, I rode across the Arlington Memorial Bridge and down The Esplanade to Arlington National Cemetery (MAP) on this lunchtime bike ride.

Wreaths Across America is not affiliated with any religion or political view. Their mission is to remember all of the fallen, honor their families, and teach children about the freedoms for which so much was sacrificed. Because they are a guest at the more than 900 participating cemeteries they visit each year, they abide by each cemetery’s rules when it comes to the placement of wreaths on veterans’ headstones. At those cemeteries without a formal policy, they do not place a wreath on the headstones of those graves marked with the Star of David, out of respect for Jewish custom. Instead, they simply pause and pay their respects. The only exception is when families of the deceased request a wreath, and then their wishes are honored.

The wreathes placed at the graves in Arlington National, as well as 544 other cemeteries and locations in all fifty states and overseas, are made in Maine by The Worchester Wreath Company, whose president, Morrill Worcester, started the annual event in 1992.   The wreathes left Maine last Monday in a convoy of eleven trucks that was escorted by the Patriot Guard Riders, an organization whose members, at the invitation of a decedent’s family, attend the funerals of members of the military, as well as firefighters and police. They form an honor guard at military burials, which helps protect mourners from harassment, and fill out the ranks at burials of indigent and homeless veterans. The Patriot Guard Riders also greets troops returning from overseas at homecoming celebrations and performs volunteer work for veteran’s organizations.

Wreathes Across America expects to exceed last year’s shipments of 540,000 wreaths, all of which adorn veterans’ graves. Of that number, over 230,000 of them were place at Arlington National.  For the 150th anniversary of Arlington National Cemetery, Wreaths Across America met its goal of having a wreath for every headstone of each veteran buried there.   It should be noted that organization receives no government funding for this annual tradition. Until 2009, The Worcester Wreath Company did not accept donations and funded the project itself. The organization has since expanded to include fundraising groups throughout the country representing more than 900 cemeteries, military memorials and other locations, along with Arlington National Cemetery. To sponsor a wreath and help Wreathes Across America fulfill its mission, I encourage you to send a donation to: Wreaths Across America, P.O. Box 256, Harrington, Maine 04643.

The wreaths will be at Arlington National Cemetery for approximately four weeks.  So if you haven’t already, you should consider making a visit to Arlington National Cemetery, and adding it to your family’s annual holiday traditions.

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[Click on the thumbnails above to view the full size photos]