The Memorial Day Flowers Foundation is calling for volunteers to help place flowers at Arlington National Cemetery gravesites ahead of Memorial Day after a record week of donations left the organization with more flowers than available hands to distribute them.
Just last week, the foundation announced donations for flowers had “dried up,” with just 80,000 flowers out of the 300,000 goal readily available. Now, following a week of record donations, those numbers are on target — and then some.
“We need additional volunteers on Sunday to help,” the foundation’s executive director Ramiro Penaherrera said in a release. “You are needed to visit gravesites throughout the cemetery and place flowers. This is an excellent way to honor our fallen troops and veterans for Memorial Day.”
The organization currently has more than 2,500 volunteers signed up to distribute flowers, with total flower numbers expected to easily surpass the previous donation record of 220,000 in 2019. The exact total won’t be known until organizers unpack pallets on Saturday.
Those in the Washington area looking to volunteer can go to Arlington National Cemetery on Sunday, May 28, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The Memorial Day tradition of placing flowers at the graves of fallen troops — one that started as “Decoration Day” — began on May 30, 1868, on the heels of the nation’s bloodiest war in history.
The Memorial Day Flowers Foundation joined the effort in 2011 and has been placing flowers at the gravesites of fallen service members ever since. The organization started by placing 10,000 roses at graves in the cemetery, and eventually expanded to cemeteries around the country through the help of donors, businesses and volunteers.
“We are so grateful to the American public and the generosity of our floral importers, who are literally donating thousands of flowers by the pallet, to ensure our fallen military heroes are honored this year,” Penaherrera said in the statement. “This outpouring of support shows the patriotic spirit of so many Americans.”
Zamone “Z” Perez is a rapid response reporter and podcast producer at Defense News and Military Times. He previously worked at Foreign Policy and Ufahamu Africa. He is a graduate of Northwestern University, where he researched international ethics and atrocity prevention in his thesis. He can be found on Twitter @zamoneperez.