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Memorial Day project seeks to renew community efforts to honor war dead

More than 200 veterans or national cemeteries will have the graves of military veterans decorated with roses on Memorial Day, May 27, through the Memorial Day Flowers Program.

Ramiro Peñaherrera, head of the Flowers for Kids program and a director of the new nonprofit foundation sponsoring the Memorial Day project, told The Produce News as of late April that about 170 floral retail operations had already signed up.

The program began last year when 50,000 roses donated by growers were distributed by retailers at 95 cemeteries or ceremonies in 26 states. The premier event, Mr. Peñaherrera said, was at Arlington National Cemetery, where an additional 60,000 Ecuadorian roses and 2,000 California bouquets were distributed by 120 volunteers.

“We’ve been swamped by floral retailers wanting to participate,” he said in an email message. “We’re expanding this year to 80,000 roses nationwide and double the number of cemeteries we were able to serve last year. More than 70 percent of the retailers that participated last year are in the program again this year.”

The project links floral retailers and local groups such as Veterans of Foreign Wars. They work together on Memorial Day ceremonies to encourage relatives and volunteers to lay roses on tombstones and to take roses home in memory of the veterans.

The slogan for the project is “A Rose for the Headstone, Another Rose to Take Home in Memory.” Participating retailers receive 400 roses, a Memorial Day Flowers banner and 200 leaflets.

The roses are donated by South American and Californian rose growers. Managers of floral departments and other floral retailers can set up a table at a local cemetery to distribute roses to visitors. Each visitor is given two stems of roses: one to place on a headstone and one to take home in remembrance of a friend or relative.

Memorial Day can be traced to 1868, when Gen. John A. Logan, head of the Grand Army of the Republic, issued a proclamation that May 30 be called Decoration Day, a day to honor the Civil War dead nationwide by decorating their graves with flowers and flags. The holiday was once the biggest floral holiday of the year, and its preferred name gradually changed from Decoration Day to Memorial Day.

To participate, visit the nonprofit organization’s website at memorialdayflowers.org or email info@memorialdayflowers.org.