PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. (Dec. 15, 2012) -- Picatinny Arsenal officials along with members of the Civil Air Patrol, laid 162 wreaths in honor of the fallen service members from the Garden State, Dec. 15, at the tree memorial on the installation.

The trees are part of Picatinny's tree memorial honoring all New Jersey-connected service members who died during the nation's overseas contingency operations.

The wreath-laying ceremony is a national movement that happens each year at noon on a designated date in December. Each year, thousands of wreaths are laid at the graves and at memorial sites of those who have sacrificed their life to preserve our freedoms.

The tradition of laying wreaths to honor our veterans during the holiday season began in 1992 as the "Arlington Wreath Project."

As a boy, Morrill Worcester of the Worcester Wreath Company in Harrington, Maine, remembered the sacred grounds of Arlington National Cemetery, Va. Later, as an adult, he felt it in his heart to donate 5,000 wreaths to be placed at the headstones of an older section of the cemetery.

What first began as one man's honorable gesture grew into a national event in 2006, when "Wreaths Across America" was formed as a non-profit organization.

Various military officers at the Arsenal as well as cadets from the Picatinny Civil Air Patrol laid a ceremonial wreath at each tree in honor of those who died during Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Picatanny Arsenal Garrison Commander Lt. Col. Jason Mackay said installation officials have plans to plant seven more trees in honor of service members from New Jersey who paid the ultimate sacrifice in 2012.

"Like you, I look forward to the day when we will no longer need to plant any more trees," Mackay said to those who gathered for the ceremony.

Nine families of the 162 fallen service members were in attendance for the ceremony. While addressing them Mackay said, "mere words can never repay the great deal of gratitude we owe you. We are here to honor our brave service members and their selfless families."

This spring, Picatinny Arsenal officials will plant those seven trees for the service members that died during 2012. A ceremony will be held and all 169 families will be invited to attend.

Page last updated Tue December 18th, 2012 at 07:56