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KHS cadets lay wreaths on graves in 2016. Photo courtesy of Kathleen Jordan.

December 16 is National Wreaths Across America (WAA) Day, a day spent honoring American veterans by holding wreath-laying ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery and 1,200 additional locations in all 50 U.S. states, at sea, and abroad.

The KHS Navy Junior ROTC (NJROTC) participates annually in Wreaths Across America. While it is a fundraiser, it’s much more meaningful and important to the KHS cadets to honor the country’s veterans. As a wreath is placed on each grave, the soldier’s name is called out loud, a prayer is said, and cadets and veterans alike salute the fallen hero. 

This year, as they geared up for the annual drive, the KHS cadets had an idea. Why not ask President George H. W. Bush to buy a wreath? After all, Bush served in the Navy and does live in Houston. So they asked him. They told the president that the NJROTC program sets the foundation for a love of country, service, leadership, and the study of America’s military history.

They informed President Bush that NJROTC would use any WAA proceeds to replace equipment damaged by Hurricane Harvey, but what they really wanted to instill to President Bush was their main reason for participating. Sophomore cadet Luke Jordan explained it this way to Bush: “Last year was the first time there were enough wreaths to place at every grave marker at Houston's National Cemetery. We cannot go back to not having enough wreaths, but we also understand everyone in our community is hurting financially and trying to rebuild.”

The NJROTC at KHS is an award-winning unit. The program earns the most scholarship money out of any other club at the school. 

Wreaths at Arlington Cemetery gravesites. Photo by WAA.org.

The KHS NJROTC will participate in the wreath-laying at Houston National Cemetery on December 16 at 11 a.m. Interested volunteers can join the ROTC to help lay the wreaths. The wreaths are $15 each, including shipping. As a donation, the purchase is tax deductible. Interested donors can visit this link through November 30 to purchase wreaths: https://waahouston.donorpages.com/Wreaths2017/KHSNJROTCKingwoodHS/

Houston’s National Cemetery was built in 1965 and designated as an official national cemetery in 1973. During its 50+-year history, approximately 90,000 veterans have been buried there. Luke’s mom, Kathleen Jordan, first participated in the December 16 event last year, when her son was a freshman. “It was an incredibly touching and moving event. We noticed a woman by herself, grieving over her husband’s grave. We gathered around her and prayed with her. It was incredibly emotional,” Jordan said.

Wreaths Across American was the inspiration of one man-- Morrill Worcester, the owner of the Harrington, Maine, Worcester Wreath Company. In 1992, the company had a surplus of wreaths in the holiday season. They weren’t quite sure what to do with them, until Worcester recalled the experience of traveling to Washington, D.C. as a 12-year- old boy. He was a paper boy for the Bangor Daily News and won the trip from the newspaper company.

Arlington Cemetery made a lasting impression on Worcester, and in 1992, he recalled the visit, which reminded him that the good fortune he had shared all his life was in large part due to the sacrifice of veterans and the values of this nation. Worcester worked with Maine Senator Olympia Snowe and soon the wreaths were laid on the graves of Arlington veterans who had received few visitors that year.

The organization has grown to over 1 million volunteers who participate in the annual December 16 event. By the way, President Bush did donate $100 to buy as many wreaths as that amount would buy.

Jacqueline Havelka
Author: Jacqueline HavelkaEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
I am a rocket scientist turned writer. I worked at Lockheed Martin-Johnson Space Center for many years managing experiments on the Space Station and Shuttle, and I now own my own firm, Inform Scientific, specializing in technical and medical writing and research program management. I am a contributing correspondent to The Tribune, a Kingwood resident for 12 years, and proud mom to two Aggie sons.