Wreaths Across America to Honor Fallen Veterans on Dec. 15
By Tom Konecny
Like so many inventions and creations, Wreaths Across America started by mere chance. When Maine wreath businessman Morrill Worcester found himself with a surplus of wreaths at the end of the 1992 holiday season, he didn’t want them to go unused. As he recalled a boyhood trip to Washington, D.C. at age 12, he knew his good fortune was due to the values of America and the veterans who made sacrifices for the nation.
With the help of a Maine senator, Worcester made arrangements for the surplus wreaths to be placed at Arlington National Cemetery that year. The wreaths were primarily used in one of the older sections that had been receiving fewer visitors with each passing year. As plans unfolded, other groups and individuals offered to help with transportation, volunteers to decorate wreaths and lay them at graves.
His touching tribute continued annually each year without much fanfare. When a 2005 photo of Arlington gravestones adorned with wreaths and covered in snow went viral on the Internet, the project received national attention. Requests from other national and state cemeteries flooded Worcester and his idea grew. Although his Worcester Wreath Company couldn’t send thousands of wreaths to every state, the following year he began sending seven wreaths to all 50 states – one for each branch of the military, plus POW/MIAs.
Worcester also started an annual pilgrimage from Columbia Falls, Maine to Arlington, in what has become known as the world’s largest veterans’ parade. Along the way, the Patriot Guard Riders visit schools, monuments, veterans’ homes and communities to remind them of the mission of Wreaths Across America: remember, honor and teach.
Today the group works as a nonprofit to help others carry out similar projects nationwide. In 2014, the project was able to reach every headstone at Arlington with a wreath — 227,000 in total — for the first time. Since Wreaths Across America was founded, it has expanded to include more than 1,500 local fundraising groups in all 50 states, representing more than 1,200 participating locations. Special memorials are also held at Pearl Harbor and 9/11 sites, and the organization participates in veterans’ events throughout the year. The organization also offers learning tools and opportunities for community groups to participate in its efforts.
This year’s National Wreaths Across America Day will be held Saturday, Dec. 15. For more information, visit wreathsacrossamerica.org.