At Wreaths Across America, we're often asked, "How do you honor over a million veterans and their families during the holidays?" Our answer is always, "It's our volunteers who drive the mission and build the organization."
The Wreaths Across America family of volunteers throughout the nation and overseas represent a grassroots effort fueled by patriotism and respect for those who have served our nation past and present. These volunteers work every year to express their gratitude by raising funds to sponsor fresh, hand-made balsam fir remembrance wreaths.
The power of the circular wreath with a single red bow unites people in a common cause to remember, honor, and teach.
Rebecca Turcotte is a member of the Patriot Riders of America, Chapter 3 located in Maine. The group's Facebook page describes their club's mission (in part). "Patriot Riders of America major functions are to help all American Veterans; people in our communities; encourage rider participation in events, and to promote motorcycle safety. We support the Constitution of the United States and the right to freedom." Membership is made up of veterans, non-veterans, women, men, and junior members as well. While the group consists of motorcycle enthusiasts, it's open to anyone "caged" as well.
"We have a dedicated group of compassionate people who come together to help military veterans," Rebecca explains. "If someone reaches out to us and says 'hey we need help getting a veteran's roof shingled' then we try to get it done. We're just a volunteer group that works from our hearts but we all have different skills, and we try to put them to use as a team. I'm very proud of this group and what we've been able to do to support veterans, and if we can't, we help them find an organization that can assist."
Some of the chapter's other efforts have been to build a ramp for a World War II veteran's home, and they support the Summit Project in Maine as well.
Rebecca's love and respect for the military come naturally through her families service and sacrifices. Her husband Jim served in the Air Force, her father, Harold Pitman, served in World War II and her brother, Gilbert Bell, Jr. served in the United States Army and was killed in Vietnam in 1968 when she was a young girl.
Rebecca and fellow members of the chapter recently visited the Wreaths Across America Museum and Headquarters in Columbia Falls, Maine. A tour of the tip land allowed them to visit the dedicated section of the Patriot Riders of America and the other monuments while placing replica dog tags for some of their fallen heroes as part of the Stem to Stone program.
"It was the most memorable thing for me, and I'll never forget that experience for the rest of my life. We didn't realize there was a museum and tree-tagging program, so we want to spread the awareness."
Rebecca shares some of the photos from their visit.
"We've always supported Wreaths Across America every December and have been there to place the wreaths," Becky proudly states. "We have donation cans out, and we place them in area businesses. One of our members, Stephanie Lizzotte, numbers the cans and keeps track of them every month and carefully logs the money and so forth."
The chapter raises money to cover veteran's headstones at cemeteries in Augusta, Maine. "We discovered there just aren't enough wreaths to cover all the veterans grave sites."
"I believe, and I know the group does too that we are one country. These men and women fought for us and in some instances laid down their lives for us. Everyone should ask themselves what can we do for their families. We all have family members who have served, and this is our way to show them love and respect."
The Countdown to Wreath Day 2017 is on, and we're sharing the stories of our volunteers like Rebecca and the Patriot Riders of America as they work tirelessly to remember, honor, and teach.
The many stops along the way at schools, veterans organizations, police and fire stations were also overflowing with love and good wishes.
I want my daughter to grow up understanding what true heroes are and the sacrifices that have been made for us to live in a free country.
Complete strangers just moments before, together, Denny and Ella read the name on her grandfather's headstone and talked some about him while laying his wreath.
"When she explained to us what Wreaths Across America is and does, it was a no-brainer for me that we would get involved."
On behalf of her father Rod, Cindi shared her grandfather's words with the audience during the memorial service. You can hear her presentation and see other highlights from the service in this video.
These two quiet and humble individuals are a team dedicated to giving back to their nation. They educate others by sharing their experiences and lessons of love and sacrifice not just from the war but the other "battlefields of life."
To better serve our volunteers in 2018 and beyond, we're reorganizing and providing more tools to support their inspiring efforts.
"I witnessed a few of the boys laying an "in honor of" wreath. They did it with reverence."
Guided by an infrangible faith when the supply of lifejackets ran out they gave up their own to save the lives of others.
"I went up to that hill and looked at all of those graves of my colleagues who have gone before me.
Volunteers planning to assist in removing wreaths are asked to attend a short briefing at the McClellan Gate at 8:30 a.m. and to follow these guidelines.
As witnessed through this video, the volunteer commitment of patriotic citizens is a year-round effort that culminates in a remarkable day of unity, friendship, and healing.
Some give the ultimate sacrifice of a loved one and are often left in sorrow to wonder if other citizens remember or appreciate what they gave up for liberty and justice for all.
Wreaths Across America knows some of the finest musicians out there are members of our military performance groups. Each month, we like to feature the musical works of those talented individuals.
Each live, balsam remembrance wreath is a gift of respect and appreciation, donated by a private citizen or organization and placed on the graves by volunteers as a small gesture of gratitude for the freedoms Americans enjoy.
In just a few days, Paulette and her fellow Troop Greeters will welcome veterans, Gold Star families, and other traveling dignitaries who are part of the Annual Wreath Escort to Arlington National Cemetery.
Grand Marshals – Vietnam Medal of Honor Recipient, Colonel Roger Donlon, U.S. Army Special Forces (Retired) and his wife, Norma, a Vietnam-era Gold Star wife – will lead the caravan as it travels down the East Coast stopping at schools, memorials, and other locations along the way.
Driver Pat Wortham is an independent contractor for Dart Transit and a member of the Wreaths Across America honor fleet. He also has a rich history of military service in his family.
The holidays are traditionally celebrated with music so tune into WAA Radio throughout the holidays to hear musical Season's Greetings from some of the finest musicians in America!
"I was only 21 at the time, and we didn't know what we had come upon. The conditions were horrible, and there were all those people in striped pajamas."
"This contribution, like the one we made last year, will help provide an opportunity for professional drivers to transport wreaths across the United States.
Rhonda says she's experienced the "power of the wreath" watching people react to her daughter's presentations.
The telegram from the Department of War said that Albert and two other men had been shot down near Wollseifen, Germany, on Dec. 12, and that they had been missing since.
Yes! There's still time to sponsor a veterans' remembrance wreath in time for National Wreaths Across America Day.
"We were replacements," explained Charles. "My best friend Luke Moore and I went over together. He was a First scout, and I was a Second scout. We were taking a town when we were shot at by a sniper..."
Wreaths Across America is forever grateful for the thousands of volunteers who place veterans' remembrance wreaths on the headstones of our fallen as they say their names aloud every December. Remember, we are guests on the hallowed grounds of participating cemeteries and we ask that you honor their rules and regulations. If you're volunteering at Arlington this year, here's what you need to know.
Wreaths Across America announces open loads available as the Honor Fleet expands to transport America's Respect.
"I remember back then when we were told several times Vincent wouldn't make it through the night and I went to the chapel and said, 'God is there anything I can do to change your mind? He's our only son."
"One thing I will never forget is getting into Arlington and it was a cold, rainy day with freezing rain, and I remember looking around at all the empty headstones thinking to myself oh my God how are we going to do this."
"As part of our Wreaths Across America project, we work with the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts, the Explorers, Young Marines, and sometimes 4H members," Mike explains. "We try to engage our groups the way that I think the founder of Wreaths Across America intended."