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Memorial Day Flowers honor fallen heroes and their families

The Memorial Day Flowers Foundation was created in 2011 with the distribution of 10,000 roses at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day to honor those who willingly put their lives on the line for us. Most of us have family members who have served in the United States Armed Forces.

It just seemed logical that we in the flower industry would use our resources to show respect for not only those who have served, but also to recognize the sacrifices made by their families.

MEM-DAY-FLO-1Memorial Day Flowers volunteers place roses on the graves in Arlington National Cemetery Memorial Day weekend in 2014.Flowers can often express what words cannot. The program helps families express their feelings when they honor their loved ones.

One grieving family member recently said in a note, “As I went to visit my daughter’s and husband’s gravesite on Memorial Day, I was overcome with the sight of the rose on their headstone and I wanted to let you know how your program affected me. I just wanted to thank you for your thoughtfulness.”

The Memorial Day Flowers Foundation, with the logistical support of the Delaware Valley Floral Group, organized the donation and distribution of 100,000 roses at Arlington National Cemetery on the 2014 Memorial Day weekend.

On Sunday, May 25, around 200 volunteers (most of them D.C.-area Boy Scouts) placed 60,000 roses on the headstones of the 10 most visited sections of Arlington National Cemetery. A different floral and nonfloral industry-related company sponsored each section.

WFFSA, with its $10,000 contribution, sponsored 15,000 roses in four sections. Those roses were supplied by WFFSA members Mayesh, Nordlie, A. Perri Farms, DWF Wholesale Florist, FloraFresh, Georgia State Floral, Kennicott Bros., Louisiana Wholesale Florist, Metro Floral Wholesale, Taylor Wholesale Florist and Esprit Wholesale Florist.

Additional sections were sponsored by the Delaware Valley Group, Esprit Miami, Chrysal, Navy Credit, Sole Farms, Queens Flowers, Flores Verdes, and ProEcuador, along with rose farms Agrogana, Nevado Roses, Glamour and RosaPrima.

Gladiolas supplied by CalGlads were placed on the headstones in Section 55. Ocean View Nursery in California also donated flower bouquets to the cemetery administration staff in appreciation of all their efforts.

On Memorial Day, about 40,000 additional roses were handed out to Arlington cemetery visitors and, thanks to local news coverage, another 100 volunteers showed up to help in the effort.

Besides the activities at Arlington, over 150 additional retailers participated in other Memorial Day Flowers events at several local cemeteries around the country and the project continues to grow bigger every year.

So what does the future hold for the foundation? The foundation is hoping to be able to place a rose on each of the 280,000-plus Arlington cemetery headstones. If you or your company would like to sponsor one of the 70 sections, please contact us — we have 55 sections waiting.

We would also like to sign up an additional 1,000 retail florists and community-minded supermarkets in the United States to participate in Memorial Day events in 2015.

Ramiro (Robin) Peñaherrera is U.S. flower grower in Ecuador and co-director of the Memorial Day Flowers Foundation. He can be contacted at robin@flowersforkids.org.