Speakers will include USMC Master Sgt. William “Spanky” Gibson, wounded in Iraq

Washington, D.C. – The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund (VVMF) will honor veterans and active-duty military personnel with the Christmas Tree Ceremony at The Wall, taking place at 10 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 20.

During the ceremony, a Christmas tree will be placed at the apex of The Wall and decorated with holiday greeting cards sent to the Memorial Fund by Americans of all ages. The tree will also be decorated with hand-made cards and ornaments made by schoolchildren from around the country. In addition to the Christmas tree, a Menorah will also be placed at The Wall.

VVMF President Jan Scruggs will serve as master of ceremonies for the event. The featured speaker will be Marine Corps Master Sgt. William “Spanky” Gibson, who was wounded while serving in Iraq in 2006 and lost his left leg above the knee. Two years later, he returned to active duty in Iraq.  In his remarks, Gibson will talk about his commitment to serving his country and his experiences being away from home during the holidays.

Army Sgt. Daren Taylor will sing several Christmas carols during the ceremony. Taylor joined the Army in 2003 as a medic and served in 2006-07 with Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. He was a member of the 2004 United States Army Soldier Show and is currently a member of CAMMO – The Center for American Military Music Opportunities. In addition to Taylor, music will also be provided by the U.S. Marine Band.

Rev. William E. Calbert of Shiloh Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. will offer a blessing. Calbert is a veteran of World War II, Korea and Vietnam. Vietnam Veterans Memorial volunteers Ron Edgington and Red Flegal will bring the tree Monday morning from New London, Pa., for the ceremony.

In preparation for the ceremony, VVMF reaches out through its direct mail program to supporters around the country, asking them to send cards with greetings for active duty service members as well as remembrances for those whose names are on The Wall. Earlier this month, volunteers at the Armed Forces Retirement Home sorted through 15,000 cards and put them in three categories.

Cards that were written for active duty personnel were given to Operation Gratitude, which will ensure they are delivered to those serving overseas. Cards written for wounded service members have been given to Fisher House for distribution to hospitalized veterans. And those cards written in remembrance of someone whose name is on The Wall or someone who served in Vietnam will be used in Monday’s ceremony to decorate the Christmas tree at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

After the ceremony, a box of cards and ornaments will be left at The Wall, so that visitors can read the messages and add a decoration when they visit throughout the holidays.

Hand-made cards and ornaments have been contributed by these schools and Girl Scout troops:

• Annapolis Elementary School, 3rd Grade Class, Annapolis, Md.
• Brookside Intermediate School, Ms. Hendershot’s Career Connections Class, Friendswood, Texas
• El Cajon Valley High School, El Cajon, Calif.
• Jefferson High School, Lafayette, Ind.

• Leo Jr./Sr. High School, Mr. Lance’s 7th Grade Social Studies Class, Leo, Ind.
• Overlook Elementary School, Mrs. Bottoms’ and Mrs. Bennett’s 2nd Grade Classes, Wadsworth,
• Paramount School, Ogden, Utah
• Parkway Southwest Middle School, Ballwin, Mo.
• Rural Retreat Middle School, U.S. History Classes, Rural Retreat, Va.
• Scott Memorial Middle School, Mrs. Harmon’s 6th Grade Class, Wytheville, Va.
• Springfield Elementary, 3rd and 5th Grade Classes, Springfield, Va.
• West Hurst Elementary School, 2nd Grade Class, Hurst, Texas
• Yulee Middle School, Mrs. Ayers’ 7th Grade Class, Yulee, Fla.
• Girl Scout Troop #6563, Washington, D.C.
• Girl Scout Troop #2716, Alexandria, Va.
• Daisy Girl Scout Troop #2825, Alexandria, Va.
• Girl Scout Troop #3455, Annandale, Va.
• Girl Scout Troop #3393, Fairfax Station, Va.
• Girl Scout Troop #542, Prince George’s, Md.
• Girl Scout Troop #2637, Centreville, Va.
• Reston Girl Scouts, Reston, Va.

Established in 1979, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund is dedicated to preserving the legacy of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., promoting healing and educating about the impact of the Vietnam War.  Authorized by Congress, its most recent initiative is building The Education Center at The Wall, an underground facility near the Memorial that is designed to add faces to all the names on The Wall and tell their stories.  Other Memorial Fund initiatives include educational programs for students and teachers, a traveling Wall replica that honors our nation’s veterans and a humanitarian and mine-action program in Vietnam.