Each year, on National Wreaths Across America Day, countless volunteers descend upon Arlington National Cemetery and more than 2,500 veterans’ cemeteries in all 50 states, at sea and abroad. Their mission: to place a fresh balsam wreath at the grave of every military veteran. The stated mission of Wreaths Across America (WAA) is “Remember, Honor, Teach.”

On Dec. 19, 2020, five Fourth-degree members of Knights of Columbus Father Gabriel Assembly 2162, along with nine spouses and friends, traveled to the Old East Tennessee Veterans Cemetery in Knoxville. They and representatives of 23 other organizations laid some 7,000 wreaths on veterans’ graves throughout the cemetery (Assembly 2162 and its supporters sponsored 125 wreaths). As part of the wreath-laying and remembrance effort, the name of each veteran is spoken aloud as the wreath is laid. The Knights of Columbus’ Fourth Degree Principle is Patriotism: putting our faith in action for God and country. The principles of the first three Degrees are Charity, Unity and Fraternity.

Roland Wicker serves as Faithful Navigator of the Father Gabriel Assembly 2162, based in Crossville. He coordinated the local effort for the assembly.

“To be able to place wreaths to honor these veterans’ service, and their sacrifices, was a privilege and a great Christmas experience,” Wicker said. “It was an honor to participate in this great effort. And it’s a tradition we wholeheartedly support.”

While at the cemetery in Knoxville, the participants from Assembly 2162 were honored to locate and lay a wreath at the gravesite of an Assembly 2162 Brother Sir Knight and his wife. Arthur Krogman passed away in 2010; his wife, Georgene, died in 2015.

Wreaths Across America was begun in 1992 by Morrill Worcester, a wreath maker from Maine. Finding himself with a surplus of wreaths as Christmas approached, he decided to honor our nation’s military dead by placing wreaths at graves in Arlington Cemetery. That year, he laid 10,000 wreaths.

WAA first received national recognition in 2005; and in 2020, teams of volunteers laid 1.75 million wreaths at a total of 2,557 burial sites.

The five members of Father Gabriel Assembly 2162 who laid wreaths at the Old East Tennessee Veterans Cemetery were Mike Kapalin, Bill Anzenberger, Roland Wicker, Gene Standeart and John McMahan.

Wreaths Across America is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. For information about the organization, or to sponsor a wreath for Wreaths Across America Day 2021 (which will be Dec. 18), visit www.wreathsacrossamerica.org. Sponsorship of each wreath is $15.

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