MIRAMAR, Calif. — Laying wreaths on the tombstones of America’s fallen heroes has become a national tradition — a way to remember and honor those who have served and lay in rest.

It’s a beautiful sentiment done every December, but not every tombstone is adorned simply because there are not enough donations.

“It’s always been a challenge to make sure that every veteran has a wreath on their gravestone,” said Travis Arnold, a retired Army veteran who did two tours in Iraq.  

The tradition started almost by accident in the 1990s when a small wreath company in Maine had extra holiday wreaths and decided to donate them to Arlington National Cemetery. In 2005, an image of wreaths on gravestones in Arlington National Cemetery went around the world via the internet and the tradition exploded with donations and volunteers wanting to help.  

As the spokesperson for the nonprofit San Diego Honor, Arnold is one of the many fundraising arms of Wreaths Across America. He says it’s a way to remember his brothers and sisters who serve.

“While we’ve never met before in the same uniform, we have the same beliefs in the same commitment to our country,” Arnold said.

According to San Diego Honors as of Monday, based on donations, 87% of the veterans’ graves at Miramar & Fort Rosecrans National Cemeteries will not receive a wreath for Christmas. The deadline to donate is this Wednesday.  

One wreath is just $15, but that small token is everything to the family members who visit their buried loved ones during the holidays and know that people remember the sacrifice and care. 

“It’s a solemn event. It can absolutely be emotional. At the same time for myself it’s something that I can take great pride in.”