"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.
As the only fully-integrated recycling provider in Central Texas, TDS joined in the effort to remember, honor and teach by donating their services.
All of the 30 Medal of Honor Recipients in attendance during the four days of events were glad to have a chance to meet Morrill and Karen.
The goal of the S.W.A.T. training is to create a core "support group" for location and fundraising volunteers with more experienced leaders joining the ranks every year.
"If you're an American, you're proud to do it. I know it's probably one of the best things I've done every year."
Mission Matters with Karen Worcester is a new program heard only on Wednesdays on Wreaths Across America Radio. Here's the schedule of the shows coming up and a link to the station.
Anyone who really knows me knows that I am often a walking Wreaths Across America billboard. They will normally see me sporting a WAA-branded sweatshirt or t-shirt, my blue and green WAA wristband and my ever-present WAA baseball cap. I’m proud of my connection with WAA and love to promote what we do and why we do it.
That being said, I want to relate a recent encounter I had while standing in line at our local Social Security Administration (SSA) Office the other day.
Air Force Veteran*, Wayne Merritt, currently manages the Veterans Transportation Program based out of Wreaths Across America Headquarters in Maine. Monday thru Friday, Wayne travels to area towns in the Downeast region to pick up veterans and bring them to their doctors’ appointments. This is just one of the many free programs Wreaths Across America offers to veterans and their families.
Military children worry about their parent’s safety very day. These children face many challenges, frequent moves and lengthy separation due to trainings and deployments. They take on more responsibilities and worry about their parent every day.
"I really don't see it stopping, and we want people to tell us where they see it. Take pictures and videos when you check it out and share them with us on social media."
Debbie says she and the transportation team are excited about new and more efficient systems that will be in place for 2018 and beyond.
To come up with an accurate wreath count for sponsorships, great effort was taken to assure no one was forgotten.
As we approached, Morrill and I began to realize that here laid the body of a very important veteran that we had apparently overlooked for the past 26 years in our annual wreath placement.
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."