Wreaths Across America will not be canceled this year in spite of the coronavirus pandemic, President Donald Trump announced Tuesday.
The announcement comes after Arlington National Cemetery said it would be closed to volunteers hoping to lay wreaths to honor fallen soldiers as a precaution against the spiking pandemic. That move was quickly criticized by Republicans, and Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy said Tuesday he directed the cemetery to reverse the decision. Shortly after, Trump said he had insisted the tradition carry on this year.
“I have directed Arlington National Cemetery to safely host Wreaths Across America. We appreciate the families and visitors who take time to honor and remember those who are laid to rest at our nation’s most hallowed ground,” McCarthy tweeted Tuesday afternoon.
Trump later tweeted: “I have reversed the ridiculous decision to cancel Wreaths Across America at Arlington National Cemetery. It will now go on!”
Arlington National Cemetery has reduced the number of visitors it allows due to the pandemic. Several of its most well-known sites — including the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier — remain closed, and the public is only currently allowed grave site visitation. Masks are required in the cemetery.
Organizers of Wreaths Across America — which lays wreaths to honor fallen soldiers at cemeteries around the country — expressed its disappointment at Arlington National Cemetery’s cancellation, saying it had been in touch with local, state and national authorities to ensure participants stayed safe.
“To say we are devastated, would be an understatement,” the organization said on Twitter.
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) also criticized the cancellation, tweeting: “Thousands of people have marched in DC streets the past couple weekends for Joe Biden and Donald Trump. Surely volunteers can responsibly place wreaths on the graves of our fallen heroes at Arlington.”
Wreaths Across America is slated to take place on Dec. 19.
By Matthew Choi