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Wreaths Across America

Despite its repeated insistence that it doesn’t place its Christmas wreaths on the graves of Jewish veterans, Wreaths Across America, in its annual blanketing of our national cemeteries with Christmas wreaths, has once again placed its wreaths on countless Jewish and other non-Christian veterans’ graves, thus Christianizing the graves of these non-Christian veterans to the distress of many veterans’ family members.

I my last three posts, I’ve covered Wreaths Across America’s practice of placing its Christmas wreaths on non-Christian veterans’ graves, the so-called “non-profit’s” money-making scheme of giving its multi-million dollar wreath contracts to its own for-profit wreath company, and the failing grade that the organization received on its finances from Charity Navigator.

While Wreaths Across America’s incestuously profitable relationship with its own for-profit Christmas wreath company is appalling and newsworthy, it is the organization’s defiling of Jewish and other non-Christian veterans’ graves that is the primary concern for the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF). This is the reason that scores of family members of these non-Christian veterans come to MRFF each year with their concerns about Wreaths Across America’s practices.

Wreaths Across America’s defiling of Jewish and other non-Christian veterans’ graves is the primary concern for the Military Religious Freedom Foundation

This year, due to MRFF’s outspokenness against Wreaths Across America, the right-wing news and various fundamentalist Christian organizations have hit back, defending the organization and painting MRFF as part of the mythical “War on Christmas.” Far-right members of Congress even chimed in, writing a MRFF-bashing letter to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, signed by such luminaries as Lauren Boebert, Marjorie Taylor Greene, and Madison Cawthorn.

But getting back to the primary concern of MRFF and its clients, which is Wreaths Across America’s placing of its Christmas wreaths on the graves of Jewish and other non-Christian veterans, here’s what Wreaths Across America’s executive director Karen Worcester and spokesperson Amber Caron claimed to Fox News:

Worcester told Fox News that Wreaths Across America has had a policy against laying wreaths at graves marked with the Jewish Star of David since the group started in 1992.

But she also said Wreaths Across America has "never been asked not to" place wreaths for veterans of other non-Christian faiths, such as Islam. She then added that they have never "placed those wreaths unless asked by the families to do so."

And to the Colorado Springs Gazette:

The program follows the policies of cemeteries that grant permission for the annual remembrance ceremony, Caron said.

At cemeteries that don’t have formal policies, volunteers “do not place a wreath on the headstones of those graves marked with the Star of David, out of respect for Jewish custom,” the organization’s policy states.

And to UPI:

"We have a policy about not placing wreaths on headstones that have the Star of David," Caron said. "Obviously, errors happen. We are a network of volunteers. Not everyone knows what a Star of David is. We do have protocols in place to work with our core volunteers to ensure that we are checking and being respectful."

But, as in previous years, respectful they weren’t. Their Christmas wreaths were indiscriminately placed on countless Jewish grave that were clearly marked with the Star of David, as well as Muslim graves clearly marked as such with the crescent and star, and even atheist graves that were clearly marked with the atheist symbol.

One MRFF volunteer took photos at the Air Force Academy’s cemetery, where he found wreaths placed not only on Jewish graves, but on an atheist grave.

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Two other MRFF volunteers visited Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio, Texas. With over 170,000 graves, only a very small portion of this sprawling cemetery was was photographed. And yet, just in this small portion, there were many Jewish graves and one Muslim grave defiled by Wreaths Across America’s Christmas wreaths. 

If the word “defiled” seems hyperbolic, consider that it goes against Jewish tradition to place flowers on a grave, and given the reasons that Jews don’t place flowers on graves, wreaths would be the same thing. Likewise, Muslims do not place flowers on graves. According to the website eCondolence, which provides religion-specific guidelines on visiting graves, for Muslims: “Flowers, wreaths or other memorabilia which would adorn the grave would be considered inappropriate.” And yet, as the following photos taken by MRFF’s volunteers show, Wreaths Across America showed no respect for these religions’ traditions and beliefs, not only placing an inappropriate item on these graves, but a specifically Christian one.

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The above photos from MRFF’s volunteers come from only a small portion of just one cemetery. Wreaths Across America placed their wreaths at over 2,500 locations — large national cemeteries as well as other cemeteries where veterans are buried.

As one of MRFF’s volunteers wrote in the email that accompanied their photos:

“Make no mistake the pictures I sent you are only a small sample size and it would take weeks to visit every non-Christian gravesite. Yes, there were a few Jewish gravesites without wreaths but that was the exception! Based on the number of sections in the cemetery one can extrapolate that there are hundreds of non-Christian gravesites decorated with these Advent and Christmas decorations!!”

Multiply those hundreds at this one cemetery by all the cemeteries blanketed by Wreaths Across America, and the number of Jewish and other non-Christian veterans’ graves defiled by this organization that speciously claims to respect other religions is certainly in the multiple thousands.

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The writer of the above email excerpt was also very shocked and dismayed to see that Wreaths Across America had placed their wreaths on the graves of German and Japanese WWII P.O.W.s, writing:

“And much to my dismay I witnessed with my own eyes what you say to be true! And you can trust your own eyes looking at the many pictures I sent you! Christmas wreaths not only adorn Jewish gravesites but also a Muslim gravesite and former World War II German and Japanese enemy Prisoner of War gravesites!! 

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“I clearly remember studying history of this time period. As history teaches us the NAZI zealots adopted both anti-Christian and anti-atheist policies while planning mass genocide of Jews and races they deemed inferior. And having visited and lived in Japan during my lifetime I can categorically state that these Japanese POWs were most definitely either Shinto or Buddhists.”

Yeah, nothing screams respect for our veterans — and especially our Jewish veterans — better than honoring Nazis with a Christmas wreath, right?

Chris Rodda Promo Image

And, to end with one more note about the Worcester family’s highly profitable scheme of buying the millions of dollars worth of Christmas wreaths that their“non-profit” Wreaths Across America uses each year ($17 million in 2019) from their own for-profit Christmas wreath company, on each of the wreaths it places on a veteran’s grave is a substantial size paper tag advertising their for profit wreath company. (The size of the tag can be seen very clearly in the second photo of the first set of photos in this post.)

Chris Rodda
Military Religious Freedom Foundation