A national florist organization that has been placing Memorial Day flowers at gravesites at Arlington National Cemetery for over a decade is calling for help after this year’s donation totals fell significantly short of the target goal.
In a statement, the Memorial Day Flowers Foundation said donations for flowers have “dried up.” If current numbers persist, the foundation would have only 80,000 flowers to place at gravesites, well shy of the 310,000 goal.
“We have brought flowers to Arlington National Cemetery every year since 2011 for Memorial Day, and it pains me to see our tribute so much smaller this year,” Foundation Executive Director Ramiro Penaherrera said in the statement. “Our goal is to honor every fallen service member and veteran headstone with a flower.”
The foundation needs to raise $150,000 before May 24 to purchase the 230,000 additional flowers, Penaherrera added. Flowers can be purchased at wholesale price and shipped in time for the holiday, according to the statement.
The Memorial Day tradition of placing flowers at the graves of fallen troops — one that started as “Decoration Day” — began on May 30, 1868, on the heels of the nation’s bloodiest war in history. The Memorial Day Flowers Foundation joined the effort in 2011 and has been placing flowers at the gravesites of fallen service members ever since.
The organization started by placing 10,000 roses at graves in the cemetery, and eventually expanded to cemeteries around the country through the help of donors, businesses and volunteers.
Those wanting to volunteer in lieu of — or in addition to — donating flowers can go to Arlington National Cemetery on May 28 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Flowers will first be placed at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and then distributed to the wider cemetery grounds.
Zamone “Z” Perez is a rapid response reporter and podcast producer at Defense News and Military Times. He previously worked at Foreign Policy and Ufahamu Africa. He is a graduate of Northwestern University, where he researched international ethics and atrocity prevention in his thesis. He can be found on Twitter @zamoneperez.