Friends join in decorating graves at Arlington

Published 9:46 am Monday, December 26, 2011


They were just two friends who got together to help a greater cause. Now they want to bring that cause back home.

That’s what happened earlier this month when Juanita Southers of Ironton and Linda Dalton of Pedro joined in the Wreaths Across America.

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On a Saturday in December Southers and Dalton joined 80,000 others at Arlington National Cemetery to place wreaths on the graves of fallen soldiers from all wars and all branches of the military.

“Most places you go in Washington it is loud,” Southers said. “At Arlington there is hardly ever a sound. Regardless of where you view the cemetery, there are small white stones. Regardless of where you look they are still in a straight line.”

The group met for an orientation at 7:30 a.m. where they were told to place the wreaths at 45-degree angles. Otherwise the wind will blow them over.

“You had to lay them really close to the monuments,” Southers said. “And they had a special ceremony at (President John F.) Kennedy’s graveside. The whole ceremony is silent, almost reverent. There is nothing on the graves and they put these wreaths on.”

After the orientation participants picked out a section of the ceremony that they wished to decorate.

“They come in with huge Walmart-size trucks packed with boxes,” Southers said. “You get a box and you have to carry it out to the plot and you take it straight to the monuments.”

The wreaths are made of fresh evergreens to symbolize honor and service and they stay on through Christmas. Then a new group of volunteers come to remove them.

Wreaths Across the America was started in 1992 by Morrill Worcester of Harrington, Maine. Today more than 500 cemeteries participate in the one-day event, including many in Ohio.

“We thought it would be a wonderful thing to do it at Woodland Cemetery,” Southers said. “It would be beautiful for that soldiers’ plot. (These cemeteries are) a constant reminder that we have what we have because of those bodies that are lying there.”

Anyone interested in joining Southers and Dalton in forming a group to decorate Woodland soldiers’ graves, can contact Southers at