"Until one has loved an animal a part of one's soul remains unawakened." ~ Anatole France
When you combine a love of nation, and the mission to remember honor and teach with the love of an animal it creates a powerful force for good.
The soul of Wreaths Across America has been awakened with the arrival of Peter to his new forever home at Dun Dreamin Farm in Columbia Falls, Maine not far from the Wreaths Across America Headquarters.
Peter is a decorated veteran recently retired after fourteen years of service from the U.S. Army Caisson Platoon of the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (Old Guard) and was adopted by Karen and Morrill Worcester, executive director and founder (respectively) of Wreaths Across America. The adoption ceremony was at Fort Belvoir, Virginia on March 13, 2017.
"We are thrilled to be chosen as Peter's new home following his years of important service," Karen said. "As the newest member of our family, Peter will be an ambassador for Wreaths Across America."
The Old Guard is the official escort to the President of the United States and the nation’s premier memorial affairs and ceremonial unit.
“Our Caisson horses provide the final ride for our nation’s fallen heroes,” said Major Russell Fox, the Old Guard Public Affairs Officer. “We may be the only or last image a family member remembers as their loved one is laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery. It’s our duty to ensure the ceremony is conducted to the highest of standards. The full honor funeral the Caisson Platoon provides ensures that image.”
After years of Caisson service, a horse may be deemed unable to fulfill their military duties. Horses are then placed in the adoption process consisting of an application, a site visit and several rounds of voting. The Worcester’s have applied for adoption several times over the last few years.
As part of his distinguished service career, Peter performed six thousand funerals, received the Army Achievement Award from the Secretary of the Army, and performed as a flag bearer in President Barack Obama's second Inaugural ceremony. He finished his career with the Old Guard as the Second Horse for the White Team.
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."
According to the Worcester family, Peter will become an important part of the Wreaths Across America 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.
Starting at the end of this month, as we countdown to Wreath Day, we would like to invite you to appear on our national webcast/webinar series to tell us about the local veterans buried in your community. We will also run your interview on WAA Radio and share on social media and in the newsletter.
"If we don't teach this younger generation that freedom is not free they're going to forget and not understand the sacrifice made by these men and women who keep us free and safe. I don't know where this country would be if not for the brave people who step up and volunteer to serve in our military. It's really scary to think of where we'd be without a powerful military."
Thinking about Christmas during July provides us with the perfect opportunity to encourage others to get involved with our mission by sharing the stories of their hometown heroes while explaining, however, to those not familiar we're not "decorating graves."
We are humbled by the hundreds of thousands of people who get involved every year on National Wreaths Across America Day at Arlington National Cemetery and at over twelve hundred participating cemeteries in paying tribute to our veterans. One of those passionate and dedicated individuals is Ellen O'Neil Fuller.
Not only does Wade Gunter place a remembrance wreath on the headstone of a fallen service member at Arlington National Cemetery (ANC), he says their name aloud when he props it against the stone. It's what Wade does next that takes the Wreaths Across America mission to remember, honor, and teach to a higher level.
"We're very fortunate to find carriers, veterans, and non-veterans that want to participate in the program. We get drivers every year who call us to get involved."
From the white wigs to the tailored red coats every aspect of the United States Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps is designed with history and field music in mind. The unit was formed in 1960 and according to SFC Martin was originally made up of non-musician infantrymen, harkening back to the field musicians of the Continental Army.
"When it comes to Wreaths Across America, we don't do what we do for the applause of men; we do it because of how important it is to the Gold Star families we've connected with over the years."