Good news to share this Christmas season from Dena Loyd and from Loretta Scott, organizers of local Wreaths Across America events in Hopkins County! Sufficient donations have now been collected to pay for all the wreaths needed for Veterans graves in both Sulphur Springs City Cemetery/Mel Haven Cemetery in town, and Black Oak Cemetery out in the southeastern part of the county. Now, over 700 beautiful live fir wreaths trimmed with a red velvet holiday bow will be delivered by 18-wheeler to Sulphur Springs on Friday December 13, for distribution next morning. Similar deliveries will be made across the nation to towns participating in the annual patriotic gesture upon the final resting place of deceased military veterans. Just like at Arlington National Cemetery, a solemn military ceremony themed ‘Remember, Honor and Teach’ has been arranged locally.
The local cermony will be held outside the Myra Wilson Chapel at Sulphur Springs City Cemetery at 11am on Saturday December 14, 2019. The public is encouraged to be in attendance. Following the ceremony, everyone is invited to personally take wreaths into City Cemetery and Mel Haven Cemetery and help to place them on the more than 600 designated graves. Additionally, families of the Black Oak community will attend the 11am ceremony in town, then depart for a wreath-laying on the gravestones of 71 veterans interred in the Black Oak Cemetery. Wreaths are supplied across the U.S. at a nominal cost by the Worcester Wreath Company in Maine, this year to more than 1700 cemeteries. Trucking transportation is donated by trucking companies across the nation as a tribute to veterans. Ceremonies are arranged on a local basis by volunteers in participating cities and towns, and citizens provide the actual laying of the wreaths.
Below is the fascinating story of the Worchester Wreath Company. Find out more at wreathsacrossamerica.org.
Mr. 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 Senator 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 non-profit 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: Remember, Honor and Teach.
“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 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, December 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 September 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.