GW PA Students and Faculty Volunteer with “Wreaths Across America”
Braving single digit wind chill temperatures, faculty and students from the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences’ Physician Assistant (PA) Program arrived bright and early to volunteer at Arlington National Cemetery Jan. 26.
The effort was part of “Wreaths across America,” an annual wreath laying program started 22 years ago by Morrill Worcester, a Maine wreath-maker, who began delivering remembrance wreaths to Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va. each December. This year, more than 143,000 wreaths were placed on grave markers by nearly 30,000 volunteers.
“Since the wreath-laying was during finals, we decided to become involved with the cleanup activity. The sponsors indicated they would need help in January, when they expected far fewer volunteers,” said Lisa M. Alexander, Ed.D.’03, M.P.H. ‘89, PA-C, director of the PA Program. “I think the cold weather brought out the best in everyone and the wonderful sense of team work helped us forget about the cold.”
The event was staffed by volunteers from across the U.S., who disposed of the wreaths using creative ways to carry as many as possible to trucks and dumpsters scattered throughout the cemetery.
“I ride my bike through Arlington on my way to school and had admired the scenery for the last month,” said Justin Eckert, a second-year PA/MPH student. “It was the least I could do to help.”
For many faculty and students, this was their first visit to the Arlington National Cemetery and the setting was remarkably “energized, but somber and respectful,” said Alexander. “It was especially significant for our students and faculty, given our profession’s connections to the military. Hopefully this can become an annual tradition!”