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.
"It was really hard because I couldn't hug her. As soon as she put her hand on the wreath, I started to cry, and I could tell she was starting to tear up."
In her keynote address, Karen Worcester thanked the UMA for the honor and shared a personal story of why Wreaths Across America does what it does. In a heartfelt and often tearful delivery, Karen told the story of Edith Knowles, a Gold Star Sister who lost her brother, Bud, during World War II.
I knew I had the contacts in the trucking industry," Barry explains of his initial involvement with the organization. "I just had to get people to believe in Wreaths Across America they way I did."
"She truly gets the Wreaths Across America mission to remember, honor and teach and how important it is to our families but most importantly the families of those who have served."
"When you see thousands of volunteers flood through the gates to lay wreaths, it does help restore your faith in America and that our country has not lost its core value of appreciating the sacrifice of our soldiers and veterans and saluting them while teaching the next generation how important it is to remember."
Taya says the best way to show appreciation and respect for military families is through simple gestures like the one Wreaths Across America's founder Morrill Worcester made back in 1992 when he laid the first hand-made balsam fir remembrance wreath on the headstone of a fallen hero in Arlington National Cemetery.
Her parents, Vernon and Regina Garner represented the true American dream. They were a young entrepreneurial couple creating a business to share with future generations of their family. Garner Trucking started in 1960 with one truck and has grown to over one hundred trucks and four hundred trailers today.
"With the most gentle little kisses using the very tip of his tongue like a little butterfly he licked the tears off my cheek as if he was saying, 'Mom, I've got you, don't worry I'm right here with you."
“We didn’t understand the scope of the effort though until we attended the event. The energy and enthusiasm for WAA was mind-blowing and we left with great contacts and started to formulate a proposal right away for the executive team to consider getting involved with the mission.”
"I was very determined to survive the war. I never thought I would not survive. If I had allowed myself to think that I would have been done. My big goal was to revenge my past but not with bitterness and vengeance."