The Veterans Memorial Wreath Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization that was founded to ensure we honor our veterans and teach the next generations about their service and sacrifice. The goal of the organization is to adorn each of 5,000 veterans headstones at Evergreen-Washelli Cemetery with wreaths each December.
How It All Began
Veterans Memorial Wreath Foundation Founder and Executive Director Lorraine was visiting the east coast and saw a Wreaths Across America program featured on the local news. It touched her so profoundly that she was compelled to reach out to the Evergreen-Washelli Cemetery (known as the Arlington of the West). She had grown up in this area and recalled having seen Washelli’s big hill with all the beautiful marble headstones. Coming from a military family (including losing her cousin in Vietnam) it touched her. She was surprised to learn that this was not being done at this location – nor any other location in Washington.
Lorraine was adamant that we must honor our local veterans. The idea of adorning each of the 5,000 veteran headstones at Washelli was a daunting task, but she was determined to make it happen and stepped up to the task. Her goal through this program was to provide the community with an opportunity to demonstrate to our fallen military heroes, their families and the community that we have that we will always remember their service and sacrifices. Lorraine feels great joy and a profound sense of satisfaction to honor them and remember them.
In 2009, the first year, she raised enough money to dress 60 headstones at Washelli. The first year, attendees mostly were friends, family and coworkers of Lorraine, as well as ceremony participants. As the years went by, attendance grew. Those who attended brought friends, family and coworkers. Others who had heard about the opportunity came to participate. Youth organizations (Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, church groups, NJROTC) volunteer with the event, which has grown to approximately 250 people attendees and 1,253 wreaths placed in 2019. The 2020 event was cancelled due to continued restrictions surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, but we are on track to place an increased number of wreaths in 2021.
The annual event starts a wreath commemoration ceremony to honor all branches of the military, including the Coast Guard, Merchant Marines and POWs/MIAs. It begins with a color guard presenting the colors, a soloist singing the national anthem, a youth ambassador leading the Pledge of Allegiance, and a chaplain to providing an invocation. A guest speaker provides remarks. Then a ceremonial wreath dedication takes place, where a person representing each branch of the military in dress uniform adorns a wreath that represents their branch of the military. A bugler plays taps, and a rifle team does a 21-gun salute. At the end of the ceremony, there is a parade of wreaths, where the decorated wreaths are taken to the Dough Boy statue, which represents all sailors. Following the chaplain’s benediction, the public is welcomed to help distribute wreaths on headstones. Those placing the wreaths are encouraged to state the name of the person on whose headstone the wreath is lain to help keep their memory alive.