Around this time of year, floral wreaths become synonymous with the Christmas season, often placed on doors and windows as a sign of holiday cheer. But on Dec. 10, the wreath served as a symbol of respect for thousands of men and women who died serving in the Armed Services.
On Saturday, thousands of volunteers across the country placed wreaths on the graves of veterans as part of Wreaths Across America, a nonprofit organization founded in 1992. This army of volunteers included married redditors Chris and Ruby, who laid about 30 wreaths at Sacramento Valley National Cemetery in Dixon, Calif.
“It was a really nice way to spend a morning,” said Chris, 30, who declined to give his last name. “I was raised in a family that [taught] to respect military personnel, to respect the sacrifice they made for this country. You go out of your way to do nice things for them.”
While laying down his wreaths, Chris noticed an 80-something year old man walking from grave to grave. He was wearing a WWII veterans baseball cap. The man would stop at a headstone, place a wreath in front of it and address the fallen soldier with a salute.
“He could barely walk but he was out there at the crack of dawn doing this. That was really something,” reflected Chris, whose grandfathers both served in the military.
Chris posted a photo of his wife carrying a wreath on Reddit where dozens of people thanked him and his wife for volunteering.
“I'm a 34 y/o son of a WW2 vet who was on the USS Wasp CV7 when it was sunk by the Japanese in the Coral Sea. He died 5 years ago. Much respect for laying wreaths!” wrote Sherlock_HolmesCat.
“My father is buried in the Georgia National Cemetery. He only enlisted in the navy to avoid being drafted into something more dangerous during Vietnam. He was a wonderful man and an amazing father. He passed 2 years ago this September from cancer and this cemetery buried him for free,” wrote IvoryLeola. “I now live in Florida and I cannot make it to visit him every Christmas. When I found out about this program I was highly grateful for these people who were able to give something to my father to beautify his grave in my absence. Once again, thank you. You guys are great.”
But for almost every positive compliment made in the thread, there was a negative one from redditors accusing Chris of “karma whoring,” the controversial practice of posting frivolous content on Reddit to gain easy Reddit karma—the site’s internal scoring mechanism.
“Does anyone else find it pretty disgusting that they're karma-whoring this so much?,” wrote bitofadick.
Comments like that led Chris, who owns a transportation comapny, to remove his reddit account from the post. He said didn’t want it to “spiral out of control and produce a lot of negative press.”
“I like Reddit, but people like to cause controversy. Everybody in that thread who was being negative, I don’t think I read a single one of them,” Chris said. “Honestly, I don’t care about what people on Reddit think. If they want to say that this is not a good program of that we did it for karma or whatever. I think that is a laughable notion that people in the real world do things specifically to acquire karma on Reddit.”
For Chris, participating in Wreaths Across America is simply about giving something back to those who served their country proudly, just like the elderly man he across that day in the cememtary.
“If he was out there,” he said, “there is no reason why some young, able-bodied, can’t be out there as well.”
Photo by Chris