Manassas Journal Messenger | Florist decorates soldiers’ graves

Like so many other florists who had many roses left over after inclement weather prevented the sale of them on Valentine’s Day, Wendy Fike, owner of Lake Ridge Florist at Tackett’s Mill, was able to turn her loss into something positive.

She and 15 of her employees and relatives spent Sunday afternoon putting 720 of the leftover roses, mostly long stemmed red ones, on the graves of about 350 American soldiers buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

“It was an emotional experience for all of us,” said Fike on her return to the shop she has operated for the past 14 years.

Fike said that while she anticipated the snow and ice storm on Valentine’s Day and made most of her advanced deliveries the two days before the bad weather set in, but “there was absolutely no expected walk-in traffic on Valentine’s Day.”

That day is normally one of the florists’ top selling days and makes up for a lot of slow days, she said, noting that that this was the first time she had experienced such a storm hitting on Valentine’s Day, closing down schools, businesses and offices and making deliveries difficult.

Fike had five or six drivers delivering the roses Monday and Tuesday, including herself, which led to the idea of donating the unused flowers to the servicemen and women.

“I was making a delivery to a Woodbridge home when no one answered. I called a cell number to get an alternate delivery site or to know when someone would be home. The number I called was actually a soldier serving in Iraq who had placed the order of the four dozen roses for his sweetheart. He told me when it would be a good time to make the second delivery,” she said.

Fike said that on Valentine’s day as she looked at all the flowers still her shop coolers ” I wanted to cry” but she came up with the thought of rather than letting them go to waste to take them to the graves of soldiers who had died in Iraq.

She called Arlington and was given permission to bring the roses in and was allowed to park close to the grave sites.

“The footing was very treacherous as it was very icy and snowing at times, but we were careful not to fall. In some of the graves we doubled up on the roses, particularly on the graves which were bare of any other flowers or tokens of love,” she said.

A few other families, she said, were also at the cemetery. At one of the gravesites where a rose was placed, a woman told her “it’s awesome what you are doing” and she had a tear in her eye.

Fike said she was amazed at how massive the cemetery is.

“As I looked back at what we had done just before leaving, it was just overwhelming and very moving. I felt very good that even if what we had done, was just a small token considering how many of the soldiers had died to preserve our freedom,” she said.

“It made me feel better that we had turned a sizeable loss of business into something that made me and my employees feel so good.”

Tresa Caplanis, 51, mother of employee Carrie Caplanis, was among those who went to the cemetery and she agreed.

“When my daughter asked me if I wanted to go along, I said sure. I thought it was a very good idea to do something nice for the soldiers. The thing that impressed me the most was some of the gravesites had flowers, toys, pictures and mementoes, and the others had nothing. Those were the ones where I was particularly moved to leave the roses.”

Normally open on Sunday, Fike left a note on the door of her shop at 22538 Old Bridge Road that said she would be closed for several hours while she and her staff were away for the afternoon – on a patriotic mission to honor the soldiers who died in Iraq and are buried in Arlington.

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