Wreaths Across America plans to place 750,000 wreaths nationwide on the graves of veterans in 2015.
Help from thousands of people is necessary to make this happen each year. Wreath sponsorships, local fundraising and driving the loads are among the ways to support the cause of honoring veterans across the nation.
The annual National Wreaths Across America Remembrance Ceremony, 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.” The program was originated by Morrill Worcester, who owns the Worcester Wreath Company in Harrington, Maine.
This year’s convoy to Arlington begins with an Honoring Allies and Remembering Together Ceremony on Dec. 5 in Lubec, Maine. On Dec. 6, the trucks will 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. Wreaths are expected to remain on the graves until the middle of January.
OOIDA Life Member Paul Todorovich, Mount Pleasant, S.C., volunteered to deliver Christmas wreaths to Arlington National Cemetery in 2012.
“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.
“I got to meet a lot of wonderful people. 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.”
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. I had every intention of going back.”
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. We arrived at the gravesite, and my buddy’s already had a wreath on there. Two gravesites up, a veteran of World War II, Korea and Vietnam’s didn’t have a wreath yet and I placed one there.”
Interested truckers also can go to TruckloadOfRespect.com and select a route to volunteer. More than 300 loads of wreaths were delivered by volunteers in 2014 to veterans’ cemeteries nationwide.
Wreaths Across America statehouse ceremonies are slated for Dec. 7 in all 50 states and Washington, D.C.
Individuals also may sponsor a wreath for $15 by visiting WreathsAcrossAmerica.org. Local fundraising groups also can be started by visiting the website.
“It’s a great opportunity to give back,” Todorovich said. “You’ll never forget it.”
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