Rangers Return to Commemorate 75th Anniversary of D-Day Landings
At Wreaths Across America, logistics is everything. Last year, leading up to and including National Wreaths Across America Day, citizens sponsored and helped us place 1.8 million veterans’ wreaths on the headstones of our fallen. There were over 1,600 participating locations across the country, and for the first time in the organization’s history, the fallen were honored and remembered in Normandy, France.
Dan Mead serves on the Wreaths Across America Board of Directors and volunteers for the organization as the Director of Operations for Arlington National Cemetery (ANC). Dan is also a military veteran. “I joined the military back in 1991 the day the first missiles flew in Iraq during Desert Storm,” Dan shares of his military service. “I was a U.S. Army Ranger, a paratrooper infantryman until January of 1994.”
Dan was introduced to Wreaths Across America about eight years ago and has never looked back. He’s been an instrumental force in the organization’s growth and development during that time. His duties for Arlington include overseeing logistics for wreaths-in and wreaths-out. Permits need to be secured with federal, state and local agencies, 55 tractor-trailer units need to be properly staged within the cemetery, and communications with ANC staff is critical to ensure the safety of thousands of volunteers who arrive to participate in wreath-laying ceremonies. It’s no small task.
Like every Wreaths Across America volunteer, it’s personal for Dan. “I’ve got friends and family buried at Arlington and a lot of other veterans’ cemeteries,” he explains. “I think it’s important that everyone remembers, and it’s humbling to know that one day someone will be doing this for me.”
When it came time to prepare for wreath-laying overseas, Dan was honored but a little shocked to be asked. “The committee was made up of some Ambassadors and high-ranking military and the like. I asked Renee why she wanted me, and she said if they could trust me with Arlington, they could trust me with Normandy.”
It was an experience like none other for Dan. “It was quite an honor for me. As a Ranger, that’s our sacred ground. During WW II, the Rangers scaled the cliffs of Point du Hoc, and the 5th Ranger battalion stormed Utah Beach which is where they got their battle cry, ‘Rangers Lead the Way.’ Seeing the beaches and where my history as a Ranger came from, there are no words for that experience. The cemetery itself is such a beautiful and well-kept location, and we had people show up from different parts of the United States who found out Wreaths Across America was placing wreaths in Normandy for the first time, and they wanted to be there with us as history was being made.”
Dan is going back again and is already en-route to Northern Ireland with a group of fellow Rangers. Then they’ll be on to France to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the D-Day Landings. “On June 5th, the modern-day Rangers will be doing a re-enactment of scaling the cliffs of Point du Hoc, and we’ll meet them at the top for a wreath ceremony. We’ll attend the ceremony of the 75th Anniversary of the D-Day Landings on June 6th.”
You can hear more from Dan’s interview as part of our “What’s Your Why?” feature series showcasing the efforts of Wreaths Across America volunteers on Wreaths Across America Radio.