Around the holidays, many people use wreaths to decorate their homes. But at Arlington National Cemetery, thousands of volunteers gathered to use wreaths to honor those who aren’t always remembered.
“Wreaths Across America” is a program that places holiday wreaths on more than 5,000 headstones at Arlington National Cemetery, recognizing the sacrifices of veterans and their families for our country.
It all started when Morrill Worcester, a 12-year-old from Harrington, Maine, won a trip to Washington while serving as a paper boy for the Bangor Daily News. He was inspired by Arlington National Cemetery, and later, as president of the Worcester Wreath Company, decided to do something with his extra wreaths at the end of the holiday season.
Gathering local volunteers from the VFW and American Legion, they began decorating each wreath with a bright red bow, and arranged to transport them to Arlington.
This year, truckers traveled all the way to Arlington from Maine, making stops at local schools along the way, including a fire station in College Park, Md. Truck driver Mark Hassemer traveled all the way from Green Bay, Wis., to drive the truck from Maine. He said the reception at places they stopped was very positive.
“One thing that I really noticed was the respect and honor that kids and people have for their country,” he said.
Locals from around the D.C. area and across the country braved the chilly December morning to help them out, and in just 20 minutes, they had already covered the entire section of tombstones.
Maine Civil Air Patrol Col. Jim Jordan couldn’t have been more pleased with the result.
“Maine is really big geographically, but only has about 1 million people,” he explained, “so to see so many people turn out to help our veterans, is really gratifying.”
The program has been such a success, that Wreaths Across America hopes to expand next year to include the entire Arlington National Cemetery. But what’s most important, they say, is honoring America’s fallen heroes and their families.
USO volunteer and military wife Heather McLaughlin summed it best. Her mantra as she was handing out the wreaths to volunteers was, “Take a minute to remember the person you’re placing a wreath for … someone is missing them this Christmas.”