John Byrne
Wreaths were placed at the Northern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Fernley on Saturday as part of the Wreaths Across America program.

Christmas is a time for family and friends to get together and not only celebrate the people in our lives but also recognize the inherent freedoms that we enjoy thanks to those who’ve risked their lives to give us a better future.

Which is partly the reason why 20-year veteran Morrill Worcester founded Wreaths Across America. There is a lot of symbolism in a WAA wreath, each made with care and support for our nation’s fallen heroes. In the “What is a Veteran Wreath?” video, Worcester explains that each wreath is made up of 10 balsam bouquets each meant to describe a veteran.

Each of the bouquets in a wreath represents a veteran’s: faith in God; love for one another; strength, work ethic and character; honesty and integrity; humility, selflessness and modesty; ambitions and aspirations; optimism for fellow Americans; concern for the future and future generations; pride in carrying out their duties; and the hopes and dreams that didn’t always come true but left them with no regrets.

The wreath becomes a symbol of honor, respect, and victory. It is made from evergreens which symbolizes longevity and endurance along with its plain forest smell to give a sense of purity and simplicity. The wreath’s circular shape symbolizes eternity with no beginning and no end while its red bow portrays a veteran’s great sacrifice.

“Placing a wreath is your personal gift to an American hero,” Worcester says in the video.

Adopted at the Northern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery in 2007 by a group of volunteers placing 28 wreaths, the National Wreaths Across America Day has grown to honor more than 7,500 veterans. As a whole, the WAA recognizes fallen veterans in 1,200 locations across all 50 states. Volunteers and loved ones gather at veterans’ cemeteries everywhere for one set day in December to place their wreaths.

For the event held at Fernley’s NNVMC, people placed 2,400 wreaths on grave sites and 5,500 more that came in on a later shipment.

“Wreaths Across America fundraises throughout the year and then takes the donations to obtain live wreaths which are in turn distributed to at least 750 veterans’ ceremonies throughout the country,” says Nevada Department of Veteran Services Communications Director Terri Hendry about the Wreaths Across America event organized in Fernley on Dec. 16.

“The Nevada Veterans Coalition spearheaded all of this- they provide the volunteers and the turnout to provide a wreath for every veteran’s gravesite,” she adds. Even though it was a bit chilly in Fernley last Saturday, it didn’t stop the 1,500-2,000 people from coming out.

“It’s pretty amazing, we had a lot of kids out there and we expect a lot more to come out today (on Dec. 18). It’s wonderful to have such a supportive community that recognizes our active military and veterans. It was freezing cold but people came out because they understand that the military deserves this and it’s important that we remember them,” Hendry adds.

For more information about Wreaths Across America, visit