WREATHS ACROSS AMERICA
ESCORT TO ARLINGTON
By J. L. Wood
During the holiday season, I am continually reminded of the incredible generosity of others from individuals anonymously paying off a layaway at a local big box store for a single mother of two or a perfect stranger passing out envelopes with a $100 dollar bill tucked inside to random people. We see this phenomenon more so during the holidays, probably more than any other time of year. These humble tributes remind all of us that it only takes one small gesture to truly impact someone’s life in a positive, meaningful way.
The Worcester Wreath Company located in Harrington, is a family owned business established in 1971, that through the years has employed thousands of people in Washington County. The company is known for their Maine made and hand decorated balsam products, especially their handmade and decorated Maine wreaths.
In 1992, as the wreathing season drew to a close the company found themselves with a surplus of wreaths. Owner, Morrill Worcester remembered a trip to Arlington National Cemetery that he made as a child. He recalled how that trip made a lasting impression that had followed him throughout his life and his career. With help from then, Maine’s 2nd District, U. S. House of Representative, Olympia Snowe, arrangements were made for that surplus of wreaths to be laid at soldiers’ headstones in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
This humble tribute went on for many years, privately, until a photograph circulated around the internet, that captured those headstones at Arlington adorned with wreaths and blanketed in layer of snow. Let’s just say, the photograph went “viral” as social media picked up the story and it went national. Requests came in from all over the United States with individuals wanting to help in some way to expand or contribute to the program.
The overwhelmingly positive response to this seemingly humble tribute prompted the establishment of the non-profit organization, Wreaths Across America (WAA) in 2007 an extension of the Arlington Wreath Project. WAA has since then laid millions of Maine made wreaths at Arlington and in many other locations across the United States. According to WAA’s website, in 2014, Wreaths Across America and a national network of volunteers laid over 700,000 memorial wreaths at 1,000 locations in the United States and beyond. The goal of covering Arlington National Cemetery was accomplished in 2014 with the placement of 226,525 wreaths.
This year, Wreaths Across America’s Escort to Arlington starts on Saturday, December 5th in Machias and continues through Thursday, December 12th and concludes at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. The Patriot Guard Riders will escort a convoy of wreath trucks and a number of family members, friends, and supporters down the east coast, stopping along the way at schools, monuments, or veterans homes spreading the word about the program and sharing its goals to, “remember the fallen, honor those who serve, and to teach children the value of freedom.”
After having the opportunity to converse with Karen Worcester, Executive Director of Wreaths Across America, I was able to ask her about the program. “There are a lot of moving parts from planning, organizing, supervising, logistics, fundraising, manufacturing, etc. Let’s face it, it’s no easy task to coordinate the many hundreds of volunteers, let alone place over 1 million wreaths. What continues to motivate or inspire you to take on this massive undertaking?”
“I am motivated by the many life stories of the veterans and Gold Star families whose sacrifices are many and patriotism is strong. I'm also motivated by the many volunteers who make WAA a reality. From the volunteer trucking companies who's logistics people tackle this big job to the thousands of volunteers who plan and make happen the ceremonies in individual locations successful. It takes many hands and many hearts with the like mission to remember, honor and teach to make WAA happen.” Karen Worcester, Executive Director, Wreaths Across America.
It has been said that the wreath represents eternity, since it has no beginning and no end. Wreaths Across America is committed to not only remember those who died in service to our country, but also to recognize those who continue to serve, including their families that along with the soldiers make sacrifices each day. They managed to accomplish all of this with one humble tribute...laying a Maine made wreath at the base of a fallen solider’s headstone.
Wreaths Across America needs help to reach the goal of placing 750,000 wreaths on veteran’s headstones in 2015. For more information on ways to help visit www.wreathsacrossamerica.org/act-now/ways-to-sponsor or contact (207) 470-0967, toll free (877) 385-9504. For a full schedule of events visit WAA’s website at www.wreathsacrossamerica.org/events/escort-to-arlington/. Keep in mind, the schedule is subject to change. To track the location of the convoy visit twitter@wreathsacross or their official Wreaths Across America Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/WAAHQ/.