We all have different ways of spreading holiday cheer to those who mean the most to us.
Over the weekend, many North Dakotans were spreading that holiday cheer — but this case is a little different.
In 1992, the owner of Worcester Wreath Company started placing wreaths on headstones during the holiday season at Arlington National Cemetery.
Little did he know at the time, he started a tradition called Wreaths Across America.
“There are veterans, or national cemeteries in France and other places in Europe, where we have fallen soldiers from World War II, those places also. Wreaths are placed there,” said Kevin Iverson, Wreaths Across America coordinator for the Bismarck-Mandan area.
All of the wreaths across the world are placed on the headstones at the same time regardless of time zone.
“It’s noon Eastern Time, in our case, that’s an hour difference. But worldwide, all of those ceremonies happen at the same time,” said Iverson.
Fast forward to 2006, when wreaths were first placed in Mandan.
Since the program first came to Mandan in 2006, only eight wreaths were laid the first year, but as of 2021, that number jumped to over 7,000.
All branches of service were represented, and each year, a member of each branch is selected as an honorary member to lay the wreaths with Ray Morrell selected in 2021 for the Marines.
He had the honor of laying a wreath on the headstone of a close friend of his — retired Master Gunnery Sgt. Harold Krueger.
“He saw the landing in Incheon, he defended Okinawa, and in Vietnam, he spent many tours in-country in Vietnam,” said Morrell.
Krueger lived through many of the events you will find in your history books, but unfortunately passed away in 2020.
Rank is not something that is easily given out across the military — and Krueger ranked among the senior enlisted in the Marine Corps.
“Rank within the Marine Corps itself can be pretty challenging to obtain just through time in service and even time within your job itself,” said Morrell.
And lastly, there are some behind-the-scenes volunteers that made this event possible.
“The trucking companies deliver these wreaths to us for free, they are not reimbursed for it. This is their contribution,” said Iverson.
Over 7,000 wreaths in Mandan, and 2 million wreaths placed around the world.
“For all the people that support the Wreaths Across America, coming from a veteran as well, thank you,” said Morrell.
Iverson said the purpose of Wreaths Across America is a combination of three things: to remember our fallen veterans, to honor those who serve and to teach our children the value of freedom.
In Minot, Wreaths Across America events were held at veterans cemeteries as well. More than 1,100 wreaths were placed on veterans’ graves at Rosehill Cemetery.
The Minot community sponsored nearly 1,500 wreaths with the other 400 wreaths being sent to Arlington National Cemetery. There, the wreaths were placed on the graves of North Dakota service members.
Lauren Davis contributed to this report.