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Fallen troops honored at Arlington wreath ceremony

From Kevin Liptak, CNN
This wreath-laying event and hundreds of others across the country were organized by Wreaths Across America.
This wreath-laying event and hundreds of others across the country were organized by Wreaths Across America.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • 24,000 wreaths were placed on late U.S. veterans' headstones at Arlington National Cemetery
  • The event coincided with 550 similar wreath-laying ceremonies across the country
  • Volunteers were urged to read the name and biographical info on each gravesite

Arlington, Virginia (CNN) -- Solemn rows of headstones in Arlington National Cemetery were adorned with holiday decorations Saturday morning, as hundreds of volunteers laid wreaths on the gravesites of America's fallen troops.

The event coincided with 550 similar wreath-laying ceremonies across the country. The effort was organized by Wreaths Across America, a nonprofit group that 19 years ago began laying wreaths at Arlington, located in northern Virginia just across the Potomac River from Washington.

Three tractor-trailer trucks carried 24,000 wreaths, which were made from branches of Maine balsam trees and adorned with red velour bows.

Volunteers placed the wreaths on gravesites in an older section of the cemetery, as well as on the Kennedy gravesite and the Tomb of the Unknowns, which contains the remains of U.S. soldiers from World Wars I and II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. Organizers also asked volunteers to place wreaths in Section 60, where troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan are buried.

Sheila Vidal, a U.S. Army veteran who served in Bosnia, said heeding organizers' advice by reading the name and biographical information on each headstone made the experience more personal for her and her children.

"We took a minute, and we read each name," Vidal said. "We read where they served, what war they served in, and the day they were born and died. Then we proceeded to lay the wreath, and thank them for their service."

Kathleen Thompson brought her family from Alexandria, Virginia, to participate in the event.

"I think it's beautiful, it's a great idea," Thompson said. "It personalizes it. They can focus on one person and know that individually all these people made a sacrifice."

 
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