Wreaths Across America 2015 at Arlington National Cemetery

Four-year-old Russell Cutsforth points to the name on the gravestone of his dad, Sean Russell Cutsforth, after placing a wreath in Arlington National Cemetery's Section 60 during the Wreaths Across America event, Dec. 12, 2015. With him is his mom, Ashley Hopper. Army Spc. Cutsforth was killed in Afghanistan in December, 2010, before Russell was born.


By JOE GROMELSKI | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 12, 2015

ARLINGTON, Va. — Warm weather drew a much larger crowd than usual to take part in the annual Wreaths Across America event Saturday at Arlington National Cemetery.

Long lines were the rule on the roads leading to the cemetery and at the trucks from which over 241,000 wreaths were distributed for placement at the graves of the fallen.

Among those on hand was Craig Gross of Tarpon Springs, Fla., whose son, Cpl. Frank Robert Gross, was killed by an IED on July 16, 2011 while on a rescue mission in Afghanistan. Gross, like other relatives of the fallen, was extremely pleased by the turnout.

"To me and our wife and our family, it means a lot," he said. "I wrote a song called  'They Buried My Son in Arlington.' One of the stanzas in the song is, 'I thank God all America cares that my son is buried there.' And I'm so thankful ... this is just overwhelming to see all these people out here supporting the troops who have given 100 percent for our freedoms.

"There's a saying that all gave some and some gave all. I tell people that my son is still giving."

One of the youngest wreath-placers was four-year-old Sean Russell Cutsforth Jr., who was born a few weeks after his dad died in Afghanistan on Dec, 10, 2010. "That's my name," he said as he pointed to the gravestone.

The Arlington ceremonies were mirrored at about 1,100 cemeteries around the nation, with a total of more than 900,000 wreath being placed.

The wreaths will remain at Arlington until January 23, 2016, when volunteers are invited to join the cleanup effort.

The Custis-Lee Mansion is lit by hte early-morning sun as Wreaths Across America participants await the arrival of the trucks at Arlington National Cemetery, Dec. 12, 2015.