In 1992, Worcester Wreath found themselves with a surplus as the Holiday season approached. With the help of Maine Senator Olympia Snowe, arrangements were made for these wreaths to be placed at Arlington National Cemetery, in one of the older sections that was seeing fewer and fewer visitors.
This initial act of generosity and thanks quickly took off, attracting others who wanted to honor those laid to rest in our nations most hallowed ground. James Prout, owner of the Blue Bird Ranch trucking company, volunteered transport of the wreaths all the way to Arlington.
Volunteers from the local American Legion and VFW gathered to decorate each wreath with the traditional bright red bow. Others organized a wreath laying, including a special ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown, arguably the most famous and visited site at Arlington.
Things went on this way, with quiet dignity and purpose for many years. Then, in 2005 a photo of the stones at Arlington, blanketed in snow and adorned with wreaths began to circulate.
The response was overwhelming, with thousands asking how to help at Arlington or how to emulate the project at their local National and State cemeteries. Initially, Worcester began sending seven wreaths to every state; one for each branch of the military and one for POW/MIAs.
By the next year, 2006, with the help of numerous organizations simultaneous wreath laying ceremonies were held across the country. The Patriot Guard Riders volunteered to act as an escort for the volunteer truckers bringing the wreaths to Arlington, and the “Veterans Honor Parade” began. This escort has become known as the world’s largest veteran’s parade with hundreds of motorcycles escorting dozens of semis loaded with wreaths, wending its way from Maine, through the nation’s capital, to Arlington and beyond.
In 2007, Wreathes Across America was officially formed as a non-profit 501(c)3 with the simple mission state of “Remember. Honor. Teach.”
The words of philanthropist Pierre Claeyssens, a Belgian who well remembered the Americans who protected his town and people in WWI and who later emigrated to the States have been adopted as the motto, “To be killed in war is not the worst that can happen. To be lost is not the worst that can happen…to be forgotten is the worst.” With the simultaneous ceremonies and laying of nearly a quarter million wreaths at more than 800 locations across the country and even overseas, Wreaths Across America is remembering all those who served, honoring that service and teaching the next generation.
The Wreaths Across America ceremony will be held locally at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery on December 14th at 11:00am. In addition, there will be simultaneous ceremonies at twenty-four locations across Illinois alone, notably at The MidEast Conflicts Wall in Marseilles, and the Glendale Cemetery in Washington.
To sponsor a wreath, volunteer to help place wreaths or simply be moved beyond words at the power of everyday people, coming together to “Remember. Honor. Teach”, follow the link for the official Wreaths Across America website.
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