A Symbol of Reverence and Gratitude


There are so many phrases that flowers express.

I’m sorry.

Thank you.


Feel better.

I love you.

This is a fact that every florist knows but one that’s not so obvious for consumers who have unlimited gift options for nearly every occasion.

But for the thousands of people who visited graveyards last Monday to celebrate the true meaning of Memorial Day, there was no denying the poignancy of a single rose.


The Memorial Day Flowers Foundation, which started in 2011 with three floral industry professionals handing out 10,000 roses to visitors in Arlington National Cemetery, has exploded in the last four years. Last week, more than 250 organizations, including flower farmers, wholesalers, retailers, non-floral businesses and civic organizations participated in cemeteries throughout the country (see below). Their task: hand each visitor a rose and ask them to place it on the headstone of a fallen soldier to memorialize his or her ultimate sacrifice.

MDFlowers Map

Nicola Parker, CFD, TMFA, the daughter of Staff Sgt. James Frank Whitmore, who served the Air Force for 40 years and passed away in April, became involved in the Memorial Day Flowers effort to work through her grief and to help others do the same. She and her siblings spent Memorial Day handing out 3,000 roses to visitors at the Sacramento Valley National Cemetery.

“I want to thank them with one rose,” she told local news reporter Hayley Guenthner.

Ryan Black, marketing and media director for Jet Fresh Flower Distributors, was among a small group of floral professionals from Miami, Fla., who trekked to Arlington National Cemetery to volunteer. Industry professionals worked alongside 150 cub scouts and boy scouts to distribute more than 100,000 roses.


Volunteers manned Arlington’s entrances, as well as Section 60, a 14-acre expanse where the soldiers from the most recent wars are buried. “This section had the most people visiting,” Black said. “It was very emotional. Tina [his colleague] didn’t make it five minutes before she was in tears.”


The Jet Fresh team was blown away seeing how visitors reacted to receiving a flower.

“It was a very somber occasion, but they were all so appreciative,” he said. “It was amazing to see Vietnam veterans thanking the boy scouts for THEIR service of handing out roses to bring these wonderful people some cheer.”

Click here to see Black’s photos of the event.

Click below to hear Raphael Sogueco, son of the Society of American Florists’ Chief Information Officer Renato Sogueco, talk about his experience with Memorial Day Flowers.