East Tennessee Wreaths Across America events set to go on as scheduled with safety precautions

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – The annual Wreaths Across America event at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington is back on. A reversal came one day after cemetery leaders announced it was canceled, due to rising COVID-19 numbers. The move was met with widespread criticism.

After learning the event would go on as scheduled, Wreaths Across America Executive Director Karen Worcester said they are working with the cemetery “to develop other options to allow for the safe placement of veterans’ wreaths this December.”

More than 2,100 other WAA events are also scheduled Dec. 19, including a few in East Tennessee.

Knoxville WAA coordinator Bernice Koprince is planning this year’s event at East Tennessee Veterans Cemetery.

“I was pretty shocked at Arlington, because we mostly all take our orders, so to speak, from them. We look at them as sort of like the head master, you know,” Koprince said.

Despite a few precautions, she believes their event can still be a meaningful one.

One of the biggest changes for the state cemetery event is registration to reduce the number of people there at one time. Families are invited from 12:05-12:45 p.m. to lay wreaths for their loved ones. Time slots after 12:45 are available for the rest of the public. Their plan for now includes hosting visitors until 3:15 p.m.

Koprince noted if it runs long it won’t be a problem. They hope the staggered hours allows them to scatter the public and ultimately help prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Wreaths will be distributed by people, wearing masks and gloves, and either handed to families through their car or placed in their trunk.

“If we want to be able to keep doing this program we need to do what is asked of us. That is to wear our masks, come when you’re allowed to come in, and don’t linger too long because that’s keeping others from coming in,” Koprince added.

There also won’t be a typical ceremony, with hundreds of people and a speaker; however, there will be a pledge, posting of colors and music, weather permitting.

“If we were to take this away, I think it would be depressing,” she said. “I think it kind of gives our veterans a boost because they know that, you know, we’re going to do whatever we have to do to honor you.”

Wreaths Across America has locations and guideline information on their website for other East Tennessee events.

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