An announcement made on Thursday, Nov. 29, by Wreaths Across America testifies to the continued expansion of a patriotic mission. This year will mark the laying of the one-millionth remembrance wreath donated to honor the service and sacrifice of U.S. veterans.
Wreaths Across America is a nonprofit organization with headquarters in Harrington, ME. The wreath project was formed as an extension of the Arlington Wreath Project. The project’s stated purpose is to “remember the fallen, to honor those who serve, and to teach our children the value of freedom.”
TheArlington Wreath program was started in 1992 by Morrill Worcester, president of Worcester Wreath Co. In that year, he donated 5,000 excess Christmas wreaths for graves at Arlington National Cemetery. This became an annual event for Worcester and his wife, Karen, but the project remained low-key until 2005.
Karen Worcester is now executive director of WAA. She says that in that year, a Pentagon photographer took a photo of the graves at Arlington adorned with wreaths and covered in snow, and the photo circulated around the Internet. The project received national attention, and thousands of requests came from all over the country from people wanting to institute the Arlington project in their communities. The mission is now carried out in other locations in all 50 states and beyond.
“So we went from 5,000 wreaths and 13 volunteers to what we have today, and this year, we will place close to 450,000 wreaths,” she said in an interview with “Land Line Now” on Sirius XM.
She reports that this year Wreaths Across America has more than 800 participating locations and 24 overseas.
A week of special events – including veteran’s tributes, ceremonies and a “Veteran’s Parade” between Maine and Virginia – is made possible by thousands of volunteers. The cost is paid by individual wreath sponsors, corporate sponsors and volunteer truckers.
The theme for this year is “Then, now and forever – let’s make it personal.” Executive Director Worcester explains that the theme is rooted in the fears of families who have lost loved ones in the service of the country that they will be forgotten.
“We need to teach our kids the value of freedom, so we never have a gap of generations who don’t understand that sacrifice.”
She emphasized that Wreaths Across America puts many wreaths in Section 60 of Arlington, where troops killed in the current conflict are laid to rest.
“This means so much to the families who have just lost a loved one, who are dealing with that empty chair at the table during the holidays,” she said. “It’s a solemn task we do but one of honor and pride.”
Among the major sponsors in 2012 are Wal-Mart, FedEx Ground, Estes Express, Qualcomm, Target and many more. The long list of supporters range from American Gold Star Mothers National to the Bexar County Mounted Patrol of Texas.
Escorted by Patriot Guard Riders and others, the trucks filled with balsam wreaths will begin their journey on Sunday, Dec. 9, from Herrington, ME, finishing Saturday, Dec. 15, at Arlington National Cemetery.