Fort Smith, AR – Thursday November 10, 2022 – Every December Christmas Honors invites the citizens of the Fort Smith Region to honor the servicemembers of our community who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation at the annual Christmas Honors event. Families, friends, and volunteers will transform the Fort Smith National Cemetery by placing a wreath on each of the 16,000+ headstones in their honor. Part of the event is a powerful ceremonial tribute that includes a special message to our veterans, their families, and our community delivered by a noteworthy guest speaker.
This year, Christmas Honors is excited to announce that Terisa C. Riley, Ph.D., Chancellor, University of Arkansas Fort Smith will be the guest speaker.
“When Philip Merry asked me to speak at Christmas Honors to honor the Veterans and their families, I was both humbled and surprised. I heard the list of previous speakers—brave men and women who served in our U.S. military—and I wondered how I could ever live up to the expectations of the families who gather for Christmas Honors.” shared Terisa. “Then, my next thought was of my dad, Chet Easley, who passed away in 2013. As the daughter of a 10-year Navy Veteran, it brought my entire family such comfort to have a funeral with full military honors for my dad. More importantly, my dad was a Patriot Guard rider who never missed an opportunity to honor his fellow Veterans. So, my thoughts turned to how proud my dad would be that by speaking at Christmas Honors I am carrying on his tradition of honoring Veterans and their families during their most vulnerable moments. My dad is my reason for accepting this invitation.”
Terisa will share her message during the 11:00 a.m. public ceremony at the pavilion at the Fort Smith National Cemetery on December 3rd, 2022. She joins an extensive list of prestigious speakers who have addressed the community at past events.
Past speakers include:
2021 2nd Lt. Justin Legris, Arkansas Army National Guard
2019 Chad Colley, Decorated Military Veteran
2018 Greenwood Mayor Doug Kinslow
2017 Deena Burnett Bailey
2016 Sebastian County Sheriff Bill Hollenbeck
2015 Col. Bobbi Dorrenboss, Commander, 188th Wing, Arkansas Air National Guard
2014 Jeffrey Teas, US Veterans Administration
2013 General William Wofford, Adjutant General, Arkansas National Guard
2012 Clint Hill, Author "Mrs. Kennedy and Me"
** Terisa C. Riley, Ph.D., full bio and photo are attached.**
Wreath Workshop/Assembly
Friday, December 2, 2022
Fort Smith Convention Center Hall C from 9:00AM-2:00PM
Christmas Honors Wreath Event
Saturday, December 3, 2022
Fort Smith National Cemetery

  • 8:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. – Family Time - Please respect this time to allow the families of our heroes to lay wreaths on their loved one’s headstone(s).
  • 11:00 a.m. Public Ceremony
  • 11:30 a.m. Public Laying of the Wreaths – Immediately following the ceremony, attendees will lay wreaths on all remaining headstones. Please do not start to lay wreaths until the ceremony is complete.
Wreath Pick Up and Storage
Wednesday, January 5, 2022
Fort Smith Convention Center Hall C from 9:00AM-2:00PM
** In 2009, a volunteer group began the local program, Christmas Honors. The mission was to transform the National Cemetery in Fort Smith each December into a vision of beauty, and the families of those buried at cemetery to take comfort in seeing the respect shown to their grandfathers, fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, friends, and other fallen heroes who so loved our Country. The first year more than 1,000 volunteers respectfully placed a wreath on each of the 12,000 headstones. The program has since grown to serving 16,000+ veterans and their families.
For more information, visit or Facebook @ChristmasHonors

Dr. Terisa C. Riley was named chancellor of the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith by University of Arkansas System President Dr. Donald R. Bobbitt on April 16, 2019, and began her appointment on July 1 that year.

     For nearly 30 years, she has dedicated her career to fostering access, opportunity, and success through education. Throughout her career, she has served in virtually every facet of higher education at both public and private universities. As a first-generation college student herself, Dr. Riley values public universities’ missions to provide excellent and affordable educational opportunities, and she is committed to cultivating an inclusive campus where students and employees are valued, respected, and supported.

     Chancellor Riley leads UAFS with a commitment to open communication, transparency, and shared governance. She has collaborated with campus leaders and stakeholders to prepare and implement strategic plans to drive enrollment and improve graduation rates, optimized spending practices, implemented campus reorganization and rebranding processes, and launched university-wide investments in student success practices. She has also invested heavily in technology to enhance education, open access, and reduce economic burdens for students. 

     She is dedicated to serving her community, currently serving as the chair of the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce and on board of directors of the Van Buren chamber of commerce, Fort Smith United Way, US Marshals Museum, Fort Smith Regional Council, Fort Smith Workforce Council, and Arvest Bank.  Dr. Riley is the vice president of the Lone Star Athletic Conference and holds several membership positions on boards within the University of Arkansas System.

     Dr. Riley earned her bachelor’s degree in communication and master’s degree in higher education administration from the University of Missouri at Columbia and her doctorate in higher education administration and research methodology from Saint Louis University. She is also a graduate of the National Police Institute and the Governor’s Executive Development Program at the University of Texas at Austin.