Convoy to Arlington was 'experience of a lifetime' for trucker

By Mark Schremmer, staff writer

The memories remain vivid for OOIDA Life Member Paul Todorovich.

It was back in 2012 when Todorovich volunteered to deliver Christmas wreaths to Arlington National Cemetery as part of the Wreaths Across America program.

"A group of trucks convoyed from Maine to Arlington National Cemetery," Todorovich said. "When we arrived at the cemetery, hundreds of volunteers ready to distribute wreaths were standing on the sidewalk, and they were all applauding. It's not often that a trucker gets applauded. I've been in the business 35 years, and it was quite a moment.

"We started at 10 or 10:30 and within an hour-and-a-half, hundreds of thousands of wreaths were placed on graves by 18,000 volunteers."

The program was originated by Morrill Worcester, who owns the Worcester Wreath Company in Harrington, Maine. The annual event, which began in 1992 with a trailer load of decorated wreaths placed on the graves of fallen soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery, has evolved into a national organization with more than 900 participating locations focused on the mission to "remember, honor and teach."

That mission is carried out in part by coordinating wreath-laying ceremonies on a specified Saturday in December at Arlington, as well as veterans' cemeteries and other locations in all 50 states, ceremonies at sea, and 24 national cemeteries on foreign soil. More than 300 loads of wreaths were delivered by trucking volunteers in 2014 to veterans' cemeteries nationwide.

This year's convoy to Arlington is scheduled to begin with an Honoring Allies and Remembering Together Ceremony on Dec. 5 in Lubec, Maine. On Dec. 6, the trucks are to be loaded in Harrington for their journey to Virginia. Arrival is scheduled for Dec. 12 when thousands of volunteers will converge at Arlington for the ceremony.

Originally slated to haul wreaths again this year, Todorovich is unable to do so because of repairs needed to his truck. However, Todorovich will be the first to encourage fellow truckers to participate in the program.

"I won't be able to do it this year, but it was an experience of a lifetime," he said. "It cost a lot of money, but it was worth every penny."

Todorovich said the trip had special meaning to him.

"I have family members and buddies buried there," he said. "My niece and I grabbed some wreaths, and we made sure all my family and friends had one."

Wreaths Across America statehouse ceremonies are slated for Dec. 7 in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. National Wreaths Across America Day is planned for Dec. 12.

"It's a great opportunity to give back," Todorovich said. "You'll never forget it." LL