Each month, Do South® Magazine reaches out to a local nonprofit to learn more about their current needs and share them with our readers. This month, we touched base with Philip H. Merry, Jr., Christmas Honors. The mission of Christmas Honors is to present appreciation to veterans and their families such that they will never be forgotten.
DS: How did Christmas Honors come to be?
In 2009, I learned that the Arlington National Cemetery decorates rotating sections of the gravesites with wreaths each December. I shared this information with a group of friends who discovered many of the headstones at the Fort Smith National Cemetery received little attention during the Christmas season. This group decided to change this, and Christmas Honors was born to honor every headstone at the cemetery. It would be all or none.
DS: Who does Christmas Honors serve and in what way?
Our purpose is to show gratitude for the service and sacrifices made by veterans buried at the Fort Smith National Cemetery, the veterans who are presently in the service ranks, and their families by honoring them each December with a wreath.
DS: How does Christmas Honors impact our community?
Over 1,000 volunteers give their time, money, and resources each year to make this event a reality for our veterans. Strangers partner together to prepare the wreaths and leave as friends. Stories are shared. Hugs are exchanged on the emotional day when the wreaths are laid. Volunteers include our military, city leadership, police and fire departments, veteran organizations, companies, local organizations, churches, schools, individual citizens and many others – all with a passion to help. This very special event unites our community via a common goal.
DS: How can our community get involved and show support?
Volunteers are needed at the wreath workshop, participation at the Christmas Honors event and wreath pick up day! There is no need to sign up to participate, simply show up and jump in! However, if you would like to bring a school group or a group from an organization or company, or are providing a truck and trailer, we do ask that you complete the volunteer or truck sign-up form available on our website so we can plan accordingly. In addition, each year we need monetary donations to purchase additional wreaths and bows to account for every headstone. Donations can be made via the website as well.
DS: What is something that many people may not know about Christmas Honors?
Christmas Honors has helped the following communities start their own programs to honor their veterans: Grove, Oklahoma, Mena, Arkansas, Muskogee, Oklahoma, North Little Rock, Arkansas and Siloam Springs, Arkansas.
DS: Are there any upcoming events or needs we should know about?
Our Wreath Workshop/Assembly is Friday, December 1, 2023 at the Fort Smith Convention Center, Hall C, from 9AM – 2PM. The Christmas Honors Wreath Event is Saturday, December 2, 2023 at the Fort Smith National Cemetery. Family time is from 8AM – 11AM, the Public Ceremony is at 11AM, and the Public Laying of the Wreaths at approximately 11:30AM. Wreath Pick Up and Storage is Friday, January 5, 2024.
P.O. Box 10696, Fort Smith, Arkansas 72917