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Pandemic halts Wreaths Across America event at Arlington National cemetery

From left to right, Petty Officers 2nd Class Catherine Cartmell, Erika Costa-Salvador and Darius Hodge participate in Wreaths Across America in Arlington National Cemetery on Dec. 17, 2016.

MEREDITH TIBBETTS/STARS AND STRIPES

By STARS AND STRIPES Published: November 16, 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in yet another cancellation, and this one affects one of the Washington, D.C. area's beloved holiday traditions.

Arlington National Cemetery announced Monday afternoon that it would not take part in this year's Wreaths Across America, a Maine-based charity event in which volunteers place Christmas wreaths on graves at cemeteries around the world. The Soldiers and Airmen’s Home National Cemetery is also affected.

This year's Wreaths Across America event at Arlington had been scheduled for Dec. 19.

According to an ANC press release, "Following a thorough analysis of the annual Wreaths Across America Wreaths-In event this year, and in close collaboration with the Joint Task Force, National Capital Region, ANC determined that it could not implement sufficient controls to mitigate the risks associated with hosting an event of this size under current and forecasted infection and transmission rates, while still conducting a respectful and honorable public event.

"This decision applies only to Arlington National Cemetery and Soldiers and Airmen’s Home National Cemetery."

“We did not make this decision lightly," Karen Durham-Aguilera, executive director, of vthe Office of Army National Cemeteries and Arlington National Cemetery said in the release. "Despite the controls developed to disperse potential crowds in time and space, and required personal safety protocols, we determined that hosting any event of this scale risked compromising our ability to accomplish our core mission of laying veterans and their eligible family members to rest.”

"Although this is disappointing for so many, we could no longer envision a way to safely accommodate the large number of visitors we typically host during this event.”

The release noted that "family pass holders and visitors are still welcome to visit the cemetery on their own schedules and place graveside tributes of privately purchased flowers or wreaths in accordance with our floral policy."

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