A sea of headstones covering the slightly rolling landscape of the Houston National Veterans Cemetery is an impressive and majestic sight every day. This Saturday, December 14th, the landscape will be even more striking as tens of thousands of holiday wreaths are placed atop every gravesite like carefully laid fluffy green pillows.
Every December, Wreaths Across America-Houston (WAAH) makes it a priority to honor Veterans for the selfless service they provided to the American people, by hosting an annual wreath laying ceremony.
“Anybody can come help lay wreaths,” says WAAH director Scott deMasi. “We had about 15,000 people attend the ceremony last year, and with 40,000 wreaths, we hope to get many more volunteers this year.”
A number of employees at MEDVAMC look forward to volunteering at this extraordinary occasion every year. “It’s very rewarding to participate in such a special event,” said Shawn James, a Navy Veteran, Communications Officer and Audiovisual Specialist at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center who has attended the event to lay wreaths at the Houston National Cemetery for the past several years. “I have family buried at this cemetery and it is a privilege for me to show respect, and honor them and the other Veterans who have served our country.”
The VA maintains more than 2.9 million gravesites at 128 national cemeteries in 39 states and Puerto Rico, the Houston National Cemetery being one of the largest.
Over 60,000 Veterans are buried at the Houston National Cemetery. This year WAAH plans to lay 40,000 wreaths; leaving 20,000 gravestones bare.
“These Veterans have all paid the same price, and they served our country so that our families can enjoy freedom,” says deMasi passionately.
deMasi first started volunteering for WAAH when he and his young son were discussing a video about a wreath laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, and how amazing all the wreaths are.
When deMasi and his son found out that Houston National Cemetery didn’t receive wreaths at all, they took that as their own personal call to action.
“My son inspired me to become involved with Wreaths Across America, and my goal has always been to make sure each and every gravesite gets a wreath,” says deMasi. WAAH hopes to increase the number of wreaths next year through their fundraising efforts.
WAAH’s mission is to “Remember, Honor, and Teach.” In the battle to fulfill this mission, they are continuously fighting to win more support from the fourth largest city in the U.S., Houston.
“When you see the faces of the families who have a loved one that received a wreath, it makes all the hard work worth it,” says deMasi. “If you come out the day of the ceremony to participate and help lay wreaths, you will leave a different person, in a good way.”
For more information about Wreaths Across America-Houston, you can visit waahouston.com.