A flower for every hero: Memorial Day Flowers continues to expand

Eye on Veterans
April 12, 2019 - 12:13 pm
Categories: 

Ramiro Penaherrera went into the flower business, not the military. But many in his family have worn our nation's uniforms. Five of those family members are buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

In 2011 he decided he wanted to do something more to honor his relatives and our nation's troops. As the owner of a successful flower farm in Ecuador, he realized the answer was clear. 

"I called Arlington that day and offered them 10,000 roses from Ecuador and they said 'yes' within 24 hours. That's how the whole thing started. We gave out the 10,000 roses at the welcome center that first year in about two and a half hours," recalls Penahererra. 

Memorial Day Flowers ready to be placed on graves at Arlington National Cemetery
Photo courtesy Memorial Day Flowers

Since then, Memorial Day Flowers Foundation has grown both in terms of numbers and locations, with more than 400,000 flowers placed on vets' headstones across the country last year including more than 200,000 at Arlington.

Penaherrera credits volunteers for expanding the foundation's reach to several states and says he hopes the growth continues to the point where they can lay a flower on every grave at Arlington and beyond. While that's a very "big picture" goal, Penaherrera says the  Memorial Day event itself is very intimate and personal for those who take part.

PHOTOS - Memorial Day Flowers 2018

"It takes about an hour and a half to do. It's a quiet tribute, and a quite personal tribute," Penaherrera says. "As you're placing the flower in front of the headstone you read, quietly, the name of the person and read the complete inscription, and thank the person for the service they've given to our country."

Memorial Day Flowers volunteers place flowers on the graves of veterans
Photo courtesy Memorial Day Flowers

In recent years, a farm in California has joined the effort and provides a bouquet to every Gold Star spouse and child who has a loved one buried at Arlington.

MORE: What Memorial Day means to me: A Gold Star spouse shares her thoughts

“It’s a legacy,” Ramiro says. “This is just my way of giving back, because my country means so much to me.”

The organization is always looking for more volunteers and is happy to help anyone who would like to bring the tribute to their area. 

You can hear the full interview with Memorial Day Flowers co-founder Ramiro Penaherrera below.

Want to get more connected to the great stories and resources Connecting Vets has to offer? Click here to sign up for our weekly newsletter.