The mission of Christmas Honors is to present appreciation to veterans and their families such that they will never be forgotten. Do South reached out to Philip H. Merry, Jr. with Christmas Honors, to learn more.
DS: How did Christmas Honors come to be?
CH: In 2009, I learned 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 headstones at the Fort Smith National Cemetery received little attention during the Christmas season. That 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?
CH: Our purpose is to show gratitude for the service and sacrifices made by the 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?
CH: Over 1,000 volunteers give their time, money, and resources to make this event a reality. Strangers work 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. It is a special event that unites our community via a common goal.
DS: How can our community get involved and show support?
CH: Christmas Honors happens because of sponsors and volunteers. Volunteers are needed at the wreath workshop, participation in the event, and wreath pick-up day. As the number of wreaths each year increases, so does our need for trucks and trailers to transport wreaths on Friday, December 2nd at the workshop. If you have a truck and trailer, please arrive at the Fort Smith Convention Center (at the back loading docks) that morning. We also need monetary donations to purchase additional wreaths and bows to account for every headstone.
DS: What is something that many people may not know about Christmas Honors?
CH: 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?
CH: This year’s event dates are: Wreath Workshop/Assembly, December 2, Fort Smith Convention Center, 9a – 2p. Christmas Honors Wreath Event Saturday, December 3, Fort Smith National Cemetery, Family time 8a – 11a, Public Ceremony 11a, and Public Laying of the Wreaths 11:30a; Wreath Pick Up and Storage on January 5th, 2023.
P.O. Box 10696, Fort Smith, Arkansas 72917