Wreaths Across America is an annual observance every December. This year, volunteers spread out at Arlington National Cemetery just outside Washington, D.C., and at over 3,400 locations across 50 states on December 17 to honor our deceased military members by laying wreaths at each grave while speaking each soldier’s name out loud.

The goal every year is to place approximately 259,000 wreaths at graves of those who have served in this country’s military, including those who, in the words of President Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg, “gave their last full measure of devotion” by dying on the battlefield in defense of America.

This year, Emily Miller, a self-described D.C. journalist and author, participated with hundreds of volunteers at the Arlington site. She describes the process and what she witnessed at the cemetery in this article and video. It is both heartwarming and sobering to watch her walk among the rows of seemingly endless headstones, surrounded by hundreds of volunteers all paying their respects by laying thousands of wreaths.

What makes her story even more profound is that Ms. Miller’s group also included a prominent D.C. denizen blending in unnoticed among the volunteers – none other than U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and his wife, Ginni. And his security detail, of course.

According to Ms. Miller, the only people who seem to figure out who Justice Thomas is during this event every year are the Gold Star family members he talks to.

Miller and the Thomases were part of a group organized every year by a veteran named Frank. You can see a label marked “Frank’s Group” on Justice Thomas’ jacket in the photo that he took with Miller.

The Wreaths Across America organization explains the purpose behind the annual observance on its website:

“We understand we have Veterans Day in the fall and Memorial Day in the spring, but our service members sacrifice their time and safety every single day of the year to preserve our freedoms.

“In many homes, there is an empty seat for one who is serving or one who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. There is no better time to express our appreciation than during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. We hope you will join us at any of our more than 3,400 participating locations to show our veterans and their families that we will not forget.

“We will never forget.”

Thanks to the example of Emily Miller, the Thomases, and hundreds and thousands more just like them, we won’t.


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