Wreaths Across America Blog


A Grateful Nation Joins Together to Teach Honor and Respect

A Grateful Nation Joins Together to Teach Honor and Respect

Arlington National Cemetery and Beyond No One Should Ever Be Forgotten

Wreaths Across America Recognizes the Heart-Felt Efforts of Our Location Coordinators and Volunteers

When asked, "How do you do it all and make it work?" Wreaths Across America Executive Director Karen Worcester and Chairman of the Board of Directors, Wayne Hanson are quick to point out it's the hundreds of thousands of other patriotic and compassionate volunteers throughout this nation who become part of the Wreaths Across America family and put the memory and honor of our fallen heroes above self.

One of those volunteers is Location Coordinator for Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery, Judy Carlile who learned about Wreaths Across America when her friend demanded that she join her at the cemetery one Saturday morning in December to lay a wreath.

Judy complied with her friend's request in a bit of an emotional daze having recently buried the "love of her life" and father of her two children retired, decorated Air Force MSG and Vietnam Veteran Jimmy John Carlile in that cemetery with full military honors in 2008. She was facing her first Christmas without Jim, and it was a lonely and painful time. Judy says she laid the wreath that day, but still didn't understand what she had done.

"I went back to the cemetery that night," Judy recalls. "It was like Jim was calling me to come back and look at this again. It touched me so much I just had to know what it was that was behind this amazing effort," Judy recalls.

When a volunteer, whom Judy barely knew, suggested she take over the Location Coordinator's role at Fort Sam Houston she was overwhelmed and had no idea where to start.

"It was just as though God touched my face and said, 'just do it!' and I said, 'okay I've got this, but you've got to tell me what to do' and he truly does," says Judy. "I work full time, and he gives me the strength and the hours to take care of this program. My dream, my heart, my mission is to be able to stand at Jim's headstone and see the rolling hills of Fort Sam with wreaths on every headstone. That's my mission. I believe Jim was preparing me all these years to be sure I would be ready to take care of this effort to honor all these families through Wreaths Across America."

Judy is not alone in her personal mission to remember, honor and teach. Thousands of Wreaths Across America volunteers join her each year to pay tribute to those who have given all to defend the nation and the guiding principles that support liberty and freedom.

Wreaths Across America volunteer Location Coordinator Judy Carlile with family and friends paying tribute to her late husband at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery. Photo Credit: Terry Reynolds

Wreaths Across America volunteer Location Coordinator Judy Carlile with family and friends paying tribute to her late husband at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery. Photo Credit: Terry Reynolds

When Judy started volunteering seven years ago there were approximately ninety-seven thousand headstones in Fort Sam Houston; today there are over one hundred and fifty thousand.

"It takes my breath away. Since last December we've already added three new sections," explains Judy of the challenge that lies ahead leading up to National Wreaths Across America Day this year. Thankfully, the support for the Wreaths Across America mission has grown as well to keep pace.

"We have grown from about twenty-two groups supporting us in 2015 to over forty as of now, but there's room for more."

Judy has worked with three different cemetery directors over the years and cannot speak highly enough of current Director, Freda Robinson.

"She's amazing, and former military as is her husband," according to Judy. "Her heart is dedicated to Fort Sam, and you can see it in her efforts to make improvements. I'm so thankful to be able to work with her, and she's a huge blessing for us."

The theme for 2016 is, "Say Their Names" and Judy says everyone will be recognized at Fort Sam.

"Even if we fall short of covering every stone with a remembrance wreath, every single name in Fort Sam Houston will be spoken this year, and if there's not a wreath, we'll place a penny on the headstone and say their name. The penny drives are underway, but, my goal is to cover Fort Sam so all those pennies will be used to purchase wreaths for 2017."

Judy says a former cemetery director, who expressed shock and awe upon seeing thousands of volunteers arrive at Fort Sam Houston to place wreaths, asked her how she did it.

"I said, 'It's not me Sir, it's the thousands of people who recognize and understand the meaning of our sacrifices and loss as military families.'"

That cemetery director Gilbert Gallo has since passed and will be one of the names spoken in honor and remembrance in December.

Medical students from US Army Medical Department Center and School Health Readiness Center of Excellence pay their respects at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery. Photo Credit: Terry Reynolds

Medical students from US Army Medical Department Center and School Health Readiness Center of Excellence pay their respects at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery. Photo Credit: Terry Reynolds

Judy tells us one woman who has become a devoted supporter of the Wreaths Across America efforts at Fort Sam Houston one year discovered a wreath on her infant's grave site and she wanted to know, just as Judy had many years before her, how the remembrance wreath got there. Judy was able to show the woman a photograph in which medical students at Fort Sam Houston, as seen above, had paid respects to her child. The woman was moved and deeply appreciated the gesture.

"I don't know if anybody can truly describe in words what it feels like to lay your first wreath," Judy explains of her commitment to the mission. "There's nothing that will change your heart more quickly than laying your first wreath whether it's for your loved one or someone who you simply say thank you for your service to because once you lay that first wreath you're hooked, and you cannot do this without it changing your heart."

Randy Stokes, owner of the Barn Door Restaurant supports the wreath laying efforts at Fort Sam Houston. Photo Credit: Terry Reynolds

Randy Stokes, owner of the Barn Door Restaurant supports the wreath laying efforts at Fort Sam Houston. Photo Credit: Terry Reynolds

If you would like to support the Wreaths Across America effort at Fort Sam Houston here's the link.

You can hear more from Judy Carlile and the efforts at Fort Sam Houston for 2016 on Wreaths Across America Radio as part of our tribute to volunteers.

 

 

 

 

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As a Nation We Vowed to Never Forget

As a Nation We Vowed to Never Forget

Fifteen years ago our lives in this nation were altered forever. That tranquil, sunny Tuesday morning on the eastern seaboard of our country was shattered when American Airlines, Flight 11 was flown into the North Tower of the World Trade Center complex. That plane, and three others we would soon learn, had been hijacked by nineteen terrorists affiliated with Al Qaeda and used against us in the act of terror that would claim the lives of nearly three-thousand innocent civilians.

The Mission of Wreaths Across America is to remember our fallen, honor those who serve, and teach younger generations the value of freedom. Those freedoms were attacked on September 11, 2001, and the images of the destruction in New York City, Washington D.C., and Pennsylvania are forever seared into our memories.

As Wreaths Across America Founder Morrill Worcester reminisces about the past twenty-five years of laying wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery, the year they laid wreaths following the September 11 events was one of the most powerful.

"Of course we had heard all about the attacks on the news back in September of that year, and leading right up to our annual visit in fact," Worcester recalls. "We had extra wreaths for the victims and right across from where we placed some of those wreaths you could see the big hole the plane had made on the side of the Pentagon."

For several years as part of the annual escort to Arlington National Cemetery, Wreaths Across America has held a remembrance ceremony at the 9-11 Memorial, located just outside the Pentagon.

Last year, the first person to place a remembrance wreath on the Pentagon fence was a victim of the terror attack. Kathy Dillaber and her sister Patty Mickley had offices on different floors in the Pentagon.

"We had just met in the center court of the building and had chatted briefly about what had happened in New York," recalls Dillaber. "She had gone back to her office, and I went to mine, and that's when I heard a loud sound. I didn't know what it was at the time, but I was knocked to the ground and saw debris flying in the hallways. I remembered trying to get to Patty's office but was turned around as we were forced to evacuate the building."

Dillaber would later discover her sister was one of the one hundred and eighty-four victims killed that day when Flight 77 flew into the Pentagon.

Hundreds of brave young men and women were inspired to serve in the armed forces following the attack of 9-11 volunteering to defend our freedoms. Many have given the ultimate sacrifice of their lives in doing so. They stood to serve, and we stand to support them.

 

 

 

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A Second Remembrance Wall in Maine to Benefit Veterans

A Second Remembrance Wall in Maine to Benefit Veterans

It's been said a picture is worth a thousand words and these pictures are invaluable as they pay tribute to those who have served this nation in the armed forces. Behind every face is a unique story of courage, sacrifice, and love of Country.

The mission of Wreaths Across America is to remember our fallen, honor those currently serving and teach younger generations the value of freedom.

Our remembrance wreaths placed every December by volunteers at Arlington National Cemetery and over eleven-hundred other participating locations to remember our fallen heroes come from a quiet place of honor and respect and there will soon be another memorial site on the tip lands of Washington County, Maine to pay tribute.

The first Easter Seals Heroes Wall was dedicated on Veteran's Day 2015 on the DiMillo's Boardwalk in Portland, Maine. U.S. Marine Corps Veteran John McCleod was on hand for that ceremony and is now a featured hero whose image is permanently etched into history on a beautiful granite tile.

The second Heroes Remembrance Wall will be placed in Columbia Falls, Maine in Balsam Valley. Ground will be broken soon, near the Perpetually Lit Christmas Tree on land leased to Wreaths Across America, for the Easter Seals Wreaths Across America Heroes Wall, and you have an opportunity to order a tile package in honor of your service member, past or present.

More to come soon on this exciting project that will help support veteran's services.

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Today's Bell Rings in Honor of Our Fallen Heroes

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The historic bell we're referring to is found on the New York Stock Exchange and this afternoon volunteers with Wreaths Across America will ring the closing bell in recognition of the twenty-fifth-year remembrance wreaths have honored our fallen heroes.

Wreaths Across America volunteer extraordinaire, Ellen Fuller, is the Volunteer Co-chair, Wreaths Across America Bryan/College Station/Brazos Valley . Fuller will be joined this afternoon by other exceptional WAA volunteers out of New York and New Jersey, along with Wreaths Across America Board Member David "Mel" Russen for the ringing of the New York Stock Exchange Closing Bell at 4PM, EDT.

Fuller's Father is buried in Arlington National Cemetery, where last year donors supported 240, 815 remembrance wreaths placed by as many as seventy thousand volunteers. Additionally, donors supported over six hundred thousand more to be placed by volunteers in over eleven-hundred participating locations on National Wreaths Across America Day.

"I was so touched by the kindness of these strangers (WAA) remembering my Dad's grave and service, that I wanted to get involved," explains Fuller of her tenacious volunteer efforts for Wreaths Across America that resulted in the NYSE bell ringing opportunity, and so much more.

Joining Fuller, Russen, and the other WAA Volunteers on the platform will be Claire and Paul Saint Donat who honor their Grandfather who served in WW II annually during National Wreaths Across America Day.

Claire and Paul Saint Donat (middle and right) pay tribute to their Grandfather during National Wreaths Across America Day and will be part of the NYSE Closing Bell ceremony, Aug. 26, 2016

Claire and Paul Saint Donat (middle and right) pay tribute to their Grandfather during National Wreaths Across America Day and will be part of the NYSE Closing Bell ceremony, Aug. 26, 2016

Don't forget to set your clocks for today's ringing of the bell that can be seen here:

https://www.nyse.com/bell

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Remembrance Wreaths Come from a Quiet Place of Honor and Respect

Remembrance Wreaths Come from a Quiet Place of Honor and Respect

Many people consider Columbia Falls, and surrounding towns in Washington County, Maine as rural and remote.

Wreaths Across America Founder Morrill Worcester frequently jokes with visitors to the tip land and Wreaths Across America Museum that the balsam fir trees are "not at the end of the earth, but, you can see it from here."

Those who visit are moved by the region's beauty and tranquility and appreciate knowing replica dog tags of our fallen service members, and veterans, are among the branches of the balsam fir trees. Those trees will produce the fir tips used to create the balsam bouquets for a remembrance wreath.

The tip land also hosts multiple points of interest for visitors that have become specific destinations upon return, and the number of memorial sites is growing.

One such memorial site in the Balsam Valley is the Patriot Riders of America Tree which was unveiled and dedicated earlier this summer during the Wreaths Across America Stem to Stone Tree Tagging event by members of the New Hampshire and Massachusetts chapters.

You can see the ceremony in this video which also includes a surprise to Wreaths Across America from the staff of the Choate Bridge Pub and Resturant in Ipswich, MA.

 

 

 

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