A local nonprofit is looking for hundreds of volunteers to lay flowers on graves in Arlington National Cemetery. The project, run by the Memorial Day Flowers Foundation, will have at least 150,000 flowers to place to honor fallen troops and veterans.
The foundation started in 2011 after a group of Americans who who live in Ecuador and work in the floral industry decided to find something special they could do for Memorial Day.
In its first year, the foundation donated 10,000 roses to lay on graves at Arlington National Cemetery for Memorial Day. Since then, the initiative has grown to include more flowers and cemeteries across the country.
Volunteers are given a bucket full of flowers and are instructed to visit each grave in a specific area. They are meant to pause at each gravestone along the way, reading each person’s name aloud before placing a flower and moving on.
Media Relations Director Ami Neiberger-Miller says the process can take two hours, but it’s worth it considering the volunteers may be the only people to visit the graves each year.
"In theory you could grab a bucket and run down the row," Neiberger-Miller said, but "the whole point of Memorial Day is to remember."
Neiberger-Miller can speak firsthand to the significance of the project. On Memorial Day a few years ago, she was visiting the grave of her brother, US Army Spc. Christopher Neiberger, when she ran into volunteers with the organization who gave her a rose. She said it meant a lot to her to know that there are people who care enough to pay respects in place of family members who couldn’t be in Arlington.
"I think it’s meaningful ... that the country still pauses to honor and remember those who served and died with something as simple and beautiful as a flower," Neiberger-Miller said.
The foundation encourages scout troops and other community organizations to volunteer in order to give everyone, especially children, an opportunity to understand the importance of the holiday.
"It provides a way for us to talk to our children about military service about our country, about our history, about how we pay respect to the people we serve in a very gentle way," Neiberger-Miller said.
The foundation says they’ve recruited 150 volunteers when they could need up to 1,200. Those interested in volunteering on Memorial Day can visit the Memorial Day Flowers Foundation website to sign up.