Wreaths Across America
Hampton Union, Friday, December 10, 2010
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
HAMPTON -- For 19 years now, Morrill and Karen Worcester of the Worcester Wreath Co. of Harrington, Maine, have been taking Christmas wreaths to Arlington National Cemetery.
It started out small the first year when the company made too many wreaths and didn't want to throw them away.
So, as the story goes, Morrill went to Karen and said, "This might be crazy," but let's try to place them on graves at Arlington.
They got permission to do so, and that year they placed about 5,000 wreaths. With that, Wreaths Across America was born. Its mission: To remember the fallen, honor those who serve and teach children the value of freedom.
Today it is a national nonprofit organization of about 160,000 volunteers who place wreaths at national cemeteries and memorial sites.
On Monday, a convoy of tractor-trailer trucks — escorted by members of the Patriot Guard Riders motorcycle club, police and other support groups — passed through the Seacoast, making stops in Kittery, Maine, and Hampton on its 770-mile trip to Virginia.
It was transporting more than 200,000 remembrance wreaths to be placed at 500 sites nationwide, as well as locations overseas.
Last year, the Worcesters placed 16,000 wreaths in Arlington. This year, the number will be 28,000.
At a ceremony at the Marine Memorial Statue at Hampton Beach on Monday, Karen Worcester announced that next year they will place a wreath on every gravestone at Arlington — more than 330,000 — as part of the organization's 20th anniversary.
"We just received permission from the new administration next year to cover every grave at Arlington. We are so honored to do that. It's such a sacred thing to do," she said.
It is also an incredibly generous thing to do.
Ralph Fatello is commander of American Legion Post 35 in Hampton, where the convoy stopped to lay a wreath at the Global War on Terrorism monument, which lists the names of all veterans from New Hampshire who have lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan since Sept. 11, 2001.
He said it was an honor to have the Wreaths Across America stop in Hampton.
"I think what the Worcester family is doing is truly beyond the call for a patriotic civilian. They donate their time and money, making all these wreaths and bringing them to Arlington. It means so much to those families," he said.
He's right. David Ramsay, a contributing reporter for the Portsmouth Herald, wrote a story in that paper on Tuesday about learning the Worcesters would be placing wreaths in the section of Arlington where his father is buried.
"I was pleased beyond words," he wrote.
Growing up in a military family, Ramsay wrote, "I learned firsthand of the sacrifices made by families during war and peace time."
While many civilians recognize the sacrifices and hardships made by troops in combat situations, too often are the families of the service men and women forgotten.
Wreaths Across America does something to honor those families in memory of their deceased loved ones.
As the convoy heads south, making 26 stops along the way, they find people at each stop with a story or personal reason for attending each wreath laying.
In Hampton, selectman and part-time police officer Richard Bateman was one of those escorting the convoy. He saw the ceremony at the beach as a rededication of the statue that was recently refurbished as part of a beach redevelopment project.
What a wonderful thing to be able to touch so many lives with this gesture at this time each year.