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.
"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."
Jeff says a lot of drivers who work for Buchheit think it would be exciting to participate in the Wreaths Across America effort. They're right! However, hauling a truckload of America's respect is a privileged duty reserved for certain employees.
It seems fitting that on Earth Day this year Wreaths Across America will pay tribute to our nation's EOD Technicians in a Stem to Stone Tree-Tagging event on April 22 during which the names of over three hundred fallen service members will be said aloud as their replica dog tags are placed on the tip land in Maine.
Mike and Barbara are proud and patriotic Americans who understand the great personal sacrifices of our military families. They have also witnessed the powerful impact one fresh balsam fir wreath with a red bow has on the living. Mike gets choked up when he recalls one particular example.
"We're always conscientious about the carbon footprint we leave so we have to be sure the process is safe, efficient, and compliant with federal regulations," Debbie explains. "We want to make sure it's fuel efficient and a good run, that we've got the truck full, that a rested driver is ready to go, and all that plays into the coordination effort."
Nicole says she's thankful for those fellow Location Coordinators who have helped her and she's honored to provide the same support to those who might be thinking about starting a Wreaths Across America ceremony in their community cemetery.
It was inspiring last year when Jimmy and his wife Cathy realized their volunteer effort with Wreaths Across America was helping the organization grow and indeed making an impression on younger generations.
“The trucking community has been extremely dedicated to Wreaths Across America over the years, but support doesn’t come exclusively from drivers,” Karen Worcester explained. “Some of the most important contributions come from those behind the scenes, like Wendy.
Bill admits he too was "hooked" on the effort to remember, honor, and teach as soon as he saw a fresh, hand-made remembrance wreath laying against the headstone of a fallen hero over the holidays.
Peter stands 16.3 hands tall and was selected as a Caisson Platoon horse because of his color, size, focus, and behavior. Those who met Peter at his Open House on St. Patrick's Day were amazed at his size and docile temperament with one woman referring to him as a "gentle giant."