The mission of Wreaths Across America is “REMEMBER the Fallen, HONOR those who Serve, and TEACH our children the value of Freedom.”
At noon on Dec. 18, Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 1095 will be helping Oak Grove Cemetery and Saint Mary Cemetery to remember and honor our veterans by laying remembrance wreaths on the graves of our country’s fallen heroes. There are around 3,000 total veterans buried in these two cemeteries, with over 11,000 veterans buried in Delaware County.
Please help us honor and remember as many fallen heroes as possible by sponsoring remembrance wreaths, volunteering on Wreaths Day, or inviting your family and friends to attend with you. We are happy that you are willing to help with our Wreaths Across America ceremony at Oak Grove Cemetery and Saint Mary Cemetery. Thank you so much for supporting the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 1095 and Wreaths Across America!
Wreaths may be ordered using a form or online: you can email us at [email protected] and we will email you one; mail us at P.O. Box 283, Delaware, OH 43015; or order online at www.wreathsacrossamerica.org for group OH0144 and location OHOGCD. Wreaths must be ordered by Nov. 22 in order for them to be delivered for this year’s ceremony. For every two wreaths ordered, we receive a third one for free. You may pick up wreaths you order through us or have them placed on specific graves in specific cemeteries. We also place wreaths in other cemeteries in Delaware County and other locations as requested.
Here are some things to remember about the ceremony: 1) Everyone of all ages and backgrounds is welcome. 2) Please help ensure that all participants get the opportunity to place a wreath. 3) Please follow the location coordinators’ instructions on where to place wreaths, as well as “how” they should be placed. 4) We especially appreciate volunteers willing to help clean up. Please check in with the location coordinator if you are interested in helping with the cleanup.
Each December on National Wreaths Across America Day, their mission to remember, honor and teach is carried out by coordinating wreath-laying ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery, as well as at more than 2,500 additional locations in all 50 U.S. states, at sea and abroad.
One man’s annual tribute to our veterans inspired a legion of volunteers and gave rise to the Wreaths Across America of today.
Morrill Worcester, owner of Worcester Wreath Company of Harrington, Maine, was a 12-year-old paper boy for the Bangor Daily News when he won a trip to Washington, D.C. His first trip to our nation’s capital was one he would never forget, and Arlington National Cemetery made an especially indelible impression on him. This experience followed him throughout his life and successful career, reminding him that his good fortune was due, in large part, to the values of this nation and the veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
In 1992, Worcester Wreath found themselves with a surplus of wreaths nearing the end of the holiday season. Remembering his boyhood experience at Arlington, Worcester realized he had an opportunity to honor our country’s veterans. With the aid of Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe, arrangements were made for the wreaths to be placed at Arlington in one of the older sections of the cemetery that had been receiving fewer visitors with each passing year.
As plans were underway, a number of other individuals and organizations stepped up to help. James Prout, owner of local trucking company Blue Bird Ranch, Inc., generously provided transportation all the way to Virginia. Volunteers from the local American Legion and VFW posts gathered with members of the community to decorate each wreath with traditional red, hand-tied bows. Members of the Maine State Society of Washington, D.C. helped to organize the wreath-laying, which included a special ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
The annual tribute went on quietly for several years, until 2005, when a photo of the stones at Arlington, adorned with wreaths and covered in snow, circulated around the internet. Suddenly, the project received national attention. Thousands of requests poured in from all over the country from people wanting to help with Arlington, to emulate the Arlington project at their national and state cemeteries, or to simply share their stories and thank Morrill Worcester for honoring our nation’s heroes.
Unable to donate thousands of wreaths to each state, Worcester began sending seven wreaths to every state, one for each branch of the military, and for POW/MIAs. In 2006, with the help of the Civil Air Patrol and other civic organizations, simultaneous wreath-laying ceremonies were held at over 150 locations around the country. The Patriot Guard Riders volunteered as escort for the wreaths going to Arlington. This began the annual “Veterans Honor Parade” that travels the east coast in early December.
The annual trip to Arlington and the groups of volunteers eager to participate in Worcester’s simple wreath-laying event grew each year until it became clear the desire to remember and honor our country’s fallen heroes was bigger than Arlington, and bigger than this one company.
In 2007, the Worcester family, along with veterans and other groups and individuals who had helped with their annual veterans wreath ceremony in Arlington, formed Wreaths Across America, a nonprofit 501-(c)(3) organization, to continue and expand this effort, and support other groups around the country who wanted to do the same. The mission of the group is simple:
In 2008, over 300 locations held wreath-laying ceremonies in every state, Puerto Rico and 24 overseas cemeteries. Over 100,000 wreaths were placed on veterans’ graves. Over 60,000 volunteers participated. And that year, Dec. 13, 2008 was unanimously voted by the US Congress as “Wreaths Across America Day.”
In 2014, Wreaths Across America and its national network of volunteers laid over 700,000 memorial wreaths at 1,000 locations in the United States and beyond, including ceremonies at the Pearl Harbor Memorial, as well as Bunker Hill, Valley Forge and the sites if the Sept. 11 tragedies. This was accomplished with help from 2,047 fundraising groups, corporate contributions, and donations of trucking, shipping, and thousands of helping hands. The organization’s goal of covering Arlington National Cemetery was met in 2014 with the placement of 226,525 wreaths.
The wreath-laying is still held annually on the second or third Saturday of December. WAA’s annual pilgrimage from Harrington, Maine, to Arlington National Cemetery has become known as the world’s largest veterans’ parade, stopping at schools, monuments, veterans’ homes and communities all along the way to remind people how important it is to remember, honor and teach.
WAA is committed to teaching younger generations about the value of their freedoms, and the importance of honoring those who sacrificed so much to protect those freedoms. The organization offers learning tools, interactive media projects, and opportunities for youth groups to participate in the events. They also work to create opportunities to connect “the Greatest Generation” with the “Generation of Hope,” passing on inspirational stories from World War II veterans to the leaders of the future.
Wreaths Across America would not be successful without the help of volunteers, active organizations and the generosity of the trucking industry, which offer invaluable support to WAA’s mission to remember the men and women who served our country, honor our military and their families, and teach our children about our freedom and those who protect it. There are many ways you can help — learn more about how you can get involved.
Harold B. Wolford is president of the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 1095. He served in the United States Army from 1970 to 1973.