Wreaths to be placed at Arlington cemetery despite pandemic

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ARLINGTON, VA – DECEMBER 14: A man, who declined to be identified due to security concerns, touches the headstone of Petty Officer 1st Class Aaron Carson Vaughn, U.S. Navy Seal, in Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery, December 14, 2013 in Arlington, Virginia. Carson died August 6, 2011 in Wardak province, Afghanistan. Volunteers and families of the fallen placed thousands of remembrance wreaths on headstones throughout the cemetery on National Wreaths Across America Day. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

COLUMBIA, Maine (AP) — The holiday tradition of laying wreaths on graves at the Arlington National Cemetery will continue this year, despite the pandemic.

Wreaths Across America was told Monday that the tradition was being put on hiatus, but Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy announced Tuesday that he directed the cemetery to allow the wreaths.

“We appreciate the families and visitors who take time to honor and remember those who are laid to rest at our nation’s most hallowed ground,” McCarthy tweeted. A timeline will be released soon, he said.

Karen Worcester, of Wreaths Across America, said there won’t be thousands of volunteers as in the past. Instead, there will be smaller numbers placing wreaths to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The tradition dates to 1992 when Maine wreath maker Morrill Worcester’s Worcester Wreath Company donated 5,000 wreaths to Arlington Cemetery.

It has grown since then. Last year, about 2 million wreaths were placed at 2,000 locations, including Arlington National Cemetery.

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