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Wreaths Across America soldiers through pandemic

Published: Dec. 17, 2020 at 2:41 PM EST
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - On an unseasonably-warm weekend in mid-December, Tabitha Farmer and her four kids share an early-Christmas with the husband and father they lost in service to the nation. The Gold Star family laid a wreath on his headstone at Arlington National Cemetery

“It’s not just laying a wreath, it’s remembering our loved one and being able to share the holiday with them,” Farmer said, “this was Jon’s favorite holiday.”

Army Chief Warrant Officer Jonathan Farmer died in January 2019, one of three victims of a suicide bombing in Northern Syria carried out by the Islamic State.

“I knew who I married, I signed up for it, I knew what the sacrifice could possibly be, but seeing my babies hug his headstone and kiss the ground goodbye, it breaks your heart,” Farmer said barely holding back her tears.

Similar scenes are playing out in Arlington National Cemetery and more than 2,000 sites nationwide this week as part of Wreaths Across America. The charitable organization’s mission: to place wreaths on the graves of as many fallen service-members as possible.

Executive Director Karen Worcester and her husband organized the first memorial event nearly 30 years ago, but this year’s is the most complicated. “We need to honor our fallen,” she said, “but we need to keep our living people safe.”

Public events are dramatically-scaled back this year, but Worcester encourages everyone to follow along online through Saturday.

She said it may not look or feel quite the same but the spirit’s still there. “As a country, we’ve come through a lot, and this is one tradition I’m glad we’re going to be able to do.”

Pandemic precautions limited wreath-laying to fellow Gold Star families during the Farmers’ early visit. “This wasn’t the normal day,” Tabitha Farmer said, “but it was actually really nice for the families.”

Tabitha says their own time in the cemetery gave them the space to grieve, chat, and celebrate the lives of those they lost. She hopes it’s a feature in future years even after the pandemic is in the past.

“It’s a beautiful bond that we have unfortunately,” she said of her fellow Gold Star families who paid their respects with her, “heartbreakingly beautiful.”

Copyright 2020 Gray DC. All rights reserved.

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