2016 has been an extraordinary year filled with triumphs, tribulations, and an abundance of patriotism. The Wreaths Across America family wishes to extend our heartfelt gratitude to all of you who sponsored a remembrance wreath to honor our veterans.
Twenty-five years ago this December, a wreath-maker from Maine had 5,000 extra wreaths. Rather than letting them go to waste, he gave the wreaths as a gift of thanks for the service and sacrifice made by our nation’s military so he could live freely to work and raise his family.
Morrill Worcester could never have foreseen then how this simple gesture would ignite a passion in the hearts and souls of millions of Americans many years later.
The original 5,000 wreaths at Arlington has this year grown to 1.2 million wreaths being placed at 1,228 locations nationwide. At Arlington National Cemetery specifically this year, 245,000 wreaths were placed by more than 44,000 volunteers. More than 400 truckloads of wreaths were transported across the country through a network of hundreds of volunteer drivers, donated trucking and diesel, and countless hours of dedicated volunteers committed to the mission to Remember, Honor, and Teach.
“To see all these people come together from all walks of life with different opinions, politics, and religions, in the cold and freezing rain, to join us here and across the country to say thank you to our veterans proves we aren’t all that different,” said Karen Worcester, executive director, Wreaths Across America. “We’re all grateful Americans.”
“Every year something touches my heart. This year even before we left I was reflecting on how many who speak of veterans and active duty will comment that their families will have an empty place at their holiday table. It’s a phrase used by many but if you think about it, it's very graphic. My Grandson Miles is a true patriot and we talked abut about this. Together, we decided we would set a “missing man” place setting at the Worcester holiday dinner. We’re 24 strong and very grateful. It will remind us why we can gather in safety and freedom."
During the upcoming holiday season, Karen Worcester, executive director of Wreaths Across America, and her grandson Miles Worcester make the following request of you and your family in continued support of our mission to remember, honor, and teach.
Brandon says last year spending time at Arlington National Cemetery on National Wreaths Across America Day with fellow employees of Cowan Systems, Inc. was an educational and humbling experience.
"It's been a dream of mine to go back to Arlington with my Mom to be a part of National Wreaths Across America Day to place remembrance wreaths on my grandparents' graves."
According to Gretchen CFI went above and beyond two years ago when they helped make her dream come true.
"When we did that project we had one hundred and thirty-five of our employees at that time who had served in the military and that's a big percentage of employees for one company. We think that it's important to recognize their service."
Christa Parker's love for her son, country, and volunteerism with Wreaths Across America knows no boundaries, quite literally. Her volunteer efforts frequently have her crossing states lines and her stamina and organizational efforts are an inspiration to all.
When asked if he could describe the power of the veterans' remembrance wreath he admitted it was a challenge to put into words, yet hesitated only for a moment.
One highlight from this year's performance came when Six-String Soldiers invited children of all ages to the stage to sing along with them, the Rick Charrette song, I'm An American! It echoed through the valley where replica dog tags of fallen heroes hang among the balsam fir trees' tips that will be used to make veterans remembrance wreaths.
"Rain, snow, or sunshine as you know these guys walk the walk, so we're here to dedicate this section of the tip land to the Old Guard," proclaims Wayne Hanson, Chairman of the Board for Wreaths Across America. "We certainly appreciate everything they do for us."
It was, in fact, a competitor of Abilene Motor Express who reached out to them to tell them about Wreaths Across America and Will says once the owners, Keith and Kolen Jones heard about the effort they were one hundred percent behind it right away.
Especially meaningful is the location of the Grove, which is adjacent to the soon-to-be-opened Medal of Honor Remembrance Park. From this vantage point, The Old Guard will continue to stand watch over America’s fallen heroes.
Kevin says driving Armellini's load of wreaths in the escort to VA National Cemetery in Lake Worth along with the Walmart trucks is a meaningful experience for him emotionally because of honoring veterans, but he says there's also a more physical kind of excitement as a professional driver.