Following Arlington National Cemetery's announcement Monday that this year's Wreaths Across America would be canceled due to COVID-19, the U.S. Army and President Donald Trump are demanding the annual event go on.
The Wreaths Across America organization planned a news conference Tuesday to discuss the cancellation, but 13 minutes before it was set to start, received an email addressed to the media from the Pentagon.
It reads: “The Secretary of the Army has directed Arlington National Cemetery to safely host Wreaths Across America. We appreciate the families and visitors who take time to honor and remember those who are laid to rest at our nation’s most hallowed ground. Arlington National Cemetery will provide an update on the final schedule soon.”
The organization went forward with their press conference, saying they learned of the cemetery's decision to cancel the event late Monday and were working with cemetery officials to carry on the 29-year wreath laying tradition.
"We were able to have these discussions with the cemetery’s leadership team, and they have informed us of their willingness to work with us to develop other options to allow for the safe placement of veterans’ wreaths this December," Wreaths Across America Executive Director Karen Worcester said in a statement.
Following the press conference, President Trump tweeted: "I have reversed the ridiculous decision to cancel Wreaths Across America at Arlington National Cemetery. It will now go on!"
Arlington cemetery officials said the decision came after a "thorough analysis" of this year's event, and the realization they couldn't implement "sufficient controls to mitigate the risks" associated with the size of the event while still conducting a respectful and honorable public event. This decision applies only to Arlington National Cemetery and Soldiers and Airmen’s Home National Cemetery.
The cemetery's most sacred mission to lay our nation’s veterans and their family members to rest continues during the pandemic, cemetery officials said.
Cemetery officials have not yet commented on the Army and Trump's orders to reverse the decision to cancel. The event was scheduled for Dec. 19