Music transcends barriers of communication and for centuries has been a unifying force capable of expressing common emotion and sentiment when words fail or are impossible to speak. Music has also been an integral part of our military history. Battlefield command signals rose up from the fife and drum. Military bands add pomp and circumstance to special events, and a Bugler sounds Taps for funerals and memorial services. In times of conflict and war, from concentration camps to foxholes, music has provided solace and kept humanity intact.
Indeed it was the joyous voices of children singing on a snowy morning in December last year at Kennebunk High School during the Annual Wreath Escort to Arlington National Cemetery that gave rise to the 2017 Wreaths Across America theme, "I'm an American. Yes I Am!"
“Though it was a snow day for the school, many children still came in to greet us and perform for the escort,” said Karen Worcester, executive director, Wreaths Across America. “As part of their performance, the children sang ‘I’m an American…YES, I am!’ and every single person standing in that auditorium couldn’t help but sing along, cheering and watching in awe as these children beamed with pride. That is what being an American is all about.”
The song, which entwines patriotism and acceptance of differences together, became a favorite of the 2016 Wreaths Across America escort, which included many American Gold Star Mothers, Blue Star families, veterans, and volunteers. The group was touched and inspired by the spirited performance. After their visit, the escort participants found themselves singing the words often throughout their week-long trip down the east coast to Arlington National Cemetery.
Rick Charette wrote, “I’m an American” in 2002 to help kids appreciate the sacrifices women and men have made in protecting the American freedoms that we all enjoy. The inspiration for the song came from his personal feelings on what it means to be American. A former teacher turned singer/songwriter; Charette has been writing and performing for children for the last 30 years.
The patriotism and American pride displayed by the Kennebunk Elementary School (KES) Kid's Chorus were genuine according to school Principal Ryan Quinn, and we only saw a small representation of the group during the visit because of the weather. There are normally 80 students in the group.
"We as a staff believe it's very important to teach about patriotism," Quinn explains. "Each month we have a character trait that we introduce to the students, like courage and honor, and then reinforce those meanings throughout the month. It's important to teach positive values and patriotism is one of them. In the past the kids have sold their artwork and raised money to send five World War II Veterans on the Honor Flight trip, we've sent 500 scarves to soldiers deployed in cold climates throughout the world through Operation Gratitude, and the stop by Wreaths Across America added to the list of wonderful patriotic events for our students."
Wreaths Across America is honored to unite proud and patriotic Americans throughout the nation in our mission to remember, honor, and teach to be sure no hero is ever forgotten.
“I’m an American” by Rick Charette
I’m an American. Yes, I am.
I love my country. I love my land.
With you and me together, we each play a part.
We can make a difference with love in our hearts.
We are many. We are one.
We are shining in the sun.
We’re united standing tall.
With liberty and justice for all.
I’m an American. Yes, I am.
I hold the world’s future here in my hands.
Gonna sing and shout it! It’s great to be free.
Every single person has dignity.
I’m an American. Yes, I am.
I promise that I will do what I can.
I’ll stand up for freedom. Live my life without fear
Going to make a better world, I know we’ll persevere.
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."
"It doesn't all happen in Arlington. It's all across the country, and perhaps you could start your involvement in your hometown and involve your family so people can see just how important trucking is to the mission.
"It makes these drivers feel good about themselves, it makes them feel good about their companies, it makes them feel good about their country and being Americans. They're so proud and when you've got all those things working in the same direction that's a win-win for everybody."
"I've seen the pictures of course," Don explains. "It's just not the same to see every-day people not affiliated with Wreaths Across America in any other way would take the effort to buy a fresh flag and stand outside of their home or office in the freezing drizzle and show their pride as an American as we drove through was heart-warming."
Indeed it was the joyous voices of children singing on a snowy morning in December last year at Kennebunk High School during the Annual Wreath Escort to Arlington National Cemetery that gave rise to the 2017 Wreaths Across America theme, "I'm an American."
Placing fresh, hand-made balsam remembrance wreaths on the headstones of veterans across the country in December requires tremendous logistics and unyielding support from the trucking industry.
Wreaths Across America shows its gratitude and appreciation for all those involved in transporting America's respect with "Trucking Tributes." These stories will introduce you to the men and women of the industry who make our mission possible like Steven Meyer and Arpin Van Lines.
"Wreaths Across America has been a part of my life that has assisted in my healing from the loss of my oldest son," Diana explains. "It allows me to "give back" in his memory and service." Read more about Diana's volunteer service in Kansas and how you can get involved too in our mission to remember, honor, and teach.
"All Michael ever wanted to do is join the military and serve the country," explains Gold Star Dad and professional driver Mike Stansbery. Michael Jr. was killed in Iraq in 2010. In this video, you can see how the Stansbery's have been able to honor Michael from Stem to Stone.
"When the ship was opened up by a German U-Boat torpedo it began to take on water and sink. Witnesses report that through the pandemonium four Army Chaplains brought hope in despair and light in darkness." Read about WAA's tree dedication to the Four Chaplains here.
Despite freezing rain, an estimated 44,000 volunteers placed 245,000 remembrance wreaths, and many hands on January 28th will make quick work of picking up those wreaths. Details Here.
Wreaths Across America launched its inaugural Living History Project in December of 2016 with the support of stalwart volunteers who believe similarly as Col. Frank Blazich Jr. that "if you don't know where you've been then it's difficult to know where you're going." See video here.
The mission to honor those who serve and their families is important to Wayne on a deeply personal level. As a Vietnam Veteran, Wayne recalls there was no "welcome home" and the disrespectful treatment returning soldiers received was disheartening. Read more about WAA's Chairman of the Board and his commitment to WAA here.
Traveling from eastern Maine to Virginia, the convoy of escort vehicles and tractor-trailer rigs filled with balsam fir remembrance wreaths often stretched for miles as it rolled down the highway stopping at schools, American Legion posts, and other community centers. Citizens lined the streets and overpasses waving flags, holding signs, and shouting "thank you" or rhythmically chanting "USA, USA, USA!" See excerpts from the West Point Sunrise Ceremony here.
Wreaths Across America thanks you for an extraordinary year and challenges you to extend our mission to remember, honor, and teach into 2017. See this "special request" video.
American Military University, with our strong military heritage, has proudly supported Wreaths Across America since 2011 and has again donated 1,000 wreaths for Arlington National Cemetery this year.
Each December, the excitement grows in anticipation for the Wreaths Across America escort of remembrance wreaths heading to Arlington National Cemetery from Maine. It has become known as the country’s longest veterans parade, and this year, the week-long journey kicks off on Saturday, Dec. 10.
There's no better way to recognize Veterans Day 2016 than to announce a meaningful partnership between Wreaths Across America and Easter Seals Veterans Count and to ramp up sponsorships of remembrance wreaths.