Wreaths Across America’s mission is simple: remembering fallen U.S. veterans, honoring those who served and teaching children the value of freedom.
One of the ways it does this is through its Mobile Education Exhibit, which travels across the country. It will make several stops in Arizona through April.
“The MEE fits into (our mission) because it is our largest tool in our teaching toolbox, literally,” said Trish Gardner, the MEE manager.
“It’s 70-feet long, so the MEE goes out on the road, and we travel through the United States, and we teach people about Wreaths Across America.”
Wreaths Across America is a nonprofit that places wreaths at veterans’ graves every December. To accomplish its goals, the Mobile Education Exhibit shows plaques, tombstones and a 24-person screening room with short educational videos about Wreaths Across America.
The Mobile Education Exhibit also serves as the official welcome home station for Vietnam veterans who were not properly welcomed home. Gardner said the first exhibit was in 2019.
“In 2019 our director of transportation, Don Queeney, had this great idea about an educational trailer and taking it out across the United States,” she said.
“One of the biggest challenges Wreaths Across America faces is that I want to say at least six out of 20 people don’t know anything about us. So, the MEE is our tool to get us out there and get that word (out) about Wreaths Across America. Last year in the United States we had 2 million volunteers place over 2.7 million wreaths at over 3,700 locations with about 6,100 sponsorship groups.”
David Edwards, a petty officer who served in the U.S. military from 1969 to 1973, has helped Wreaths Across America place wreaths at Beaufort National Cemetery for the past 15 years. He said Wreaths Across America’s work has been invaluable to veterans.
“It means quite a bit to me to honor my brothers and sisters that gave parts of their lives to the military,” he said. “Whether it be two years, four years or 30 years of service, it just means a lot to be able to stand there, lay a wreath and then step back and say their names. You die twice in your life. Once when you take your last breath and once when your name is not spoken anymore. And we don’t want to forget those who served our country.”
He also said Wreaths Across America also helps veterans and civilians connect — even if they can’t be there in person to honor their fallen veterans.
“I have people come out here who have no family at Beaufort National Cemetery who help me lay a wreath for families who can’t come during the ceremony,” he said. “There’s a lady who lives in the state of Washington. She can’t come every year but we lay a wreath on her relatives’ grave and I take a picture and send it to her. This gets all of us close together.”
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