Fort Smith, Arkansas has a national cemetery that, up until 2009, received very little attention during the Christmas season. In fact, a small handful of grave sites enjoyed the beauty of holiday decorations. Otherwise, the cemetery was barren of any symbols of appreciation to those who served our country.
In 2009, a group of community volunteers decided to change this, and a local program was born called Christmas Honors. This group of volunteers decided that each headstone would receive a wreath to show our gratitude for their service. Every headstone would receive our honor or none.
The community raised the funds needed to purchase 12,000 wreaths and bows to decorate every grave site at the Fort Smith National Cemetery and the team got to work planning the event.
On Friday, December 11, 2009, over 1,000 volunteers showed up and worked together at the Fort Smith Convention Center to assemble the 12,000 wreaths/bows and distribute them along the curbside at the cemetery in preparation for the laying of the wreaths the next day. Volunteers of all ages and backgrounds joined together to accomplish this task.
Saturday morning on December 12, 2009, Christmas Honors, began with a dedicated time for families of service men and women to place wreaths on their loved ones followed by a community-wide effort to distribute wreaths on every headstone. A brief ceremony during the event reminded everyone of the important role each person played in the life we live today.
In January 2010, it was time to collect, dry and store the 12,000 wreaths in over 1,000 boxes. A team of volunteers worked tirelessly to respectfully handle the wreaths so that they would be in good condition for the upcoming years.
It was the Christmas Honors’ dream to start a tradition that would long outlast them, thus providing the service men and women and their families with a symbol of gratitude during the holiday season.
Every year that tradition continues to build. Each December, thousands of community volunteers from all over the region and the country come together to transform the Fort Smith National Cemetery by placing one wreath on each of the thousands of headstones in honor of every man and woman’s service to our country.
Previous Ceremony Programs
Prestigious speakers who have addressed the community during the ceremony on event day.
2022 Terisa C. Riley, Ph.D.
2021 2nd Lt. Justin Legris, Arkansas Army National Guard
2019 Chad Colley, Decorated Military Veteran
2018 Greenwood Mayor Doug Kinslow
2017 Deena Burnett Bailey
2016 Sebastian County Sheriff Bill Hollenbeck
2015 Col. Bobbi Dorrenboss, Commander, 188th Wing, Arkansas Air National Guard
2014 Jeffrey Teas, US Veterans Administration
2013 General William Wofford, Adjutant General, Arkansas National Guard
2012 Clint Hill, Author "Mrs. Kennedy and Me"
Present appreciation to veterans and their families such that they will never be forgotten.