News: Social media gives Wreaths Across America a whole new meaning
By Jim Dresbach
Pentagram Staff Writer
ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY, Va. - The phrase support and defend fits Jennifer Adcock to a tee.
During the weekend of Arlington National Cemetery’s Wreaths Across America, the North Carolina WAA Arlington ambassador was the classic civilian soldier.
Doing her own reconnaissance and mapping, the North Carolinian came to Arlington armed with her walking shoes, a list of hand-printed names, a smart phone camera and a whole bunch of determination. Her battle plan was simple: To turn social media requests for wreath layings for faraway military families into reality.
Adcock was on the ground for three days serving as the legs and eyes for those not able to walk the rows of graves or personally see a wreath on a loved one’s headstone. Her mission started by visually scouring through a Wreaths Across America Facebook post of requests for in absentia wreath layings.
"I have 50 requests I’m trying to fulfill," she said Dec. 16, her last day of volunteering inside ANC. "[The Facebook outreach] is way bigger than last year. I see to it that a wreath is on a grave, take a photograph and post it on Wreaths Across America’s Facebook page."
Two days following the Dec. 14 WAA event, the volunteer thread of requests was liked by 771 people and 498 comments were left on the Maine nonprofit organization’s social media page. Following the mass wreath laying, volunteers uploaded pictures and fulfilled the requests by posting photos on the page.
Due to the convergence of volunteers and survivors, the Wreaths Across America’s social media footprint has strengthened and become highly visible over the past 12 months.
"In years past, it was random," Wreaths Across America Social Media and Communications Coordinator Tobin Slaven said about volunteer/military family connections via social media. "It has picked up, and people connecting is a new thing for us. Our volunteer post has received over 400 responses and over 24,000 have seen our page since Thursday afternoon. Social media has become a big driver for us."
While her pictures of military gravestones and wreaths went semi-viral at the WAA site, Adcock visited 21 sections of Arlington the following Monday snapping additional pictures and continually forwarding them to military families across the country. She has granted the wishes of service member families from California to Illinois and points around the globe.
Slaven has seen new relationships develop and blossom due to electronic timelines, likes and shares.
"Because of the fielding requests, picture taking and online posting, they are making friends for life," he said of the volunteers’ work in Arlington.