The balsam fir trees in Columbia Falls, Maine are lovingly grown and nurtured by Wreaths Across America's founder Morrill Worcester.
Some folks may share a common misunderstanding about the hand-made, fresh balsam fir remembrance wreaths placed on headstones of our fallen veterans across the nation and overseas each December. The trees from which the balsam "tips" are harvested are not cut down, rather pruned through a process known as "tipping."
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.
Our nations EOD Warriors are tasked with explosive ordinance disposal making them the military's "bomb squad."
Executive Director for the EOD Warrior Foundation, Nicole Motsek, explains the evolution of the organization.
"The EOD Memorial Foundation and Scholarship program were created in the late nineteen sixties by some active duty EOD Warriors. In 2007, at the peak of the war in the Middle East EOD Warriors were coming back stateside almost weekly with serious, life-altering injuries, so the Wounded EOD Warrior Foundation was set up to provide immediate and on-going support to those families. In 2013, they merged becoming the EOD Warrior Foundation increasing our capacity to serve the community at large."
According to Nicole that community of EOD Warriors which spans all branches of the military includes as many as seven thousand active duty personnel and twenty thousand veterans both men and women.
"Once they graduate the EOD Warrior School at Eglin AFB in Florida we support them and their families for life."
They also discovered Wreaths Across America when looking for ways to honor the memory of their fallen heroes while continuing to support their families.
"We started sponsoring wreaths to honor them and at what better time than during the holidays when people miss their loved ones the most."
To expand on their tribute, Nicole, her son Michael, and board member Kellie Perry are visiting with Wreaths Across America's events coordinator Lil Charron and outreach coordinator Kelly Hinkle prior to the Earth Day event for a tour of the Wreaths Across America Museum and tip land memorials.
The public is invited to attend the tree-tagging event on April 22 and show support for these heroes as Wreaths Across America dedicates a section of the land where replica dog tags will be placed. For those wishing to attend the morning events, a service will begin at 9:00 AM at the Balsam Valley Chapel off U.S. Route 1 in Jonesboro, Maine with the tree-tagging dedication ceremony to follow.
"We are grateful for this opportunity to partner with Wreaths Across America. This event is going to be a beautiful and touching ceremony to honor our 326 fallen EOD Warriors with a living memorial."
"This endless forest is a truly visual representation of our unwavering commitment to our mission to remember, honor and teach and to recognize our fallen soldiers and families this year and for many years to come," states Karen Worcester, executive director of Wreaths Across America.
Any military families can have a tree tagged as a memorial to their loved one free of charge. You can find more information about the Stem to Stone Tree-Tagging program here:
"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."
“Every year we have so many professional drivers, bikers, police officers and other first responders, ask us how they can get involved, even if they can’t transport wreaths,” said Karen Worcester, executive director, Wreaths Across America.
"There are a lot of similarities between the military and the trucking industry," Rob explains. "I think that's why you see a lot of veterans successful as truck drivers."
Johnny Vet: Freedom Isn’t Free is a dynamic and inspirational musical journey of the men and women who have fought the nation’s wars and how those same men and women, as veterans, have helped to shape the nation and its destiny.
"History can be studied in many ways, and it's important to do so for a contextual understanding of the journey taken by an individual, organization, or nation."
"It's heart-wrenching to see that and participate in that, Rick shares. "To see all the mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunts, and uncles waiting there to have a wreath to place on their family member's headstone, there are just no words for it, none."
"We're just Moms who serve through the organization to make sure that our children's names and lives are not forgotten."
From our standpoint, it's a relatively small thing to do, and we're proud to be a part of the mission."
"With NFI managing the logistics, the sky is the limit. They will help make the entire operation more efficient,” said Debbie Sparks, Director Corporate Development and Community Relations, Wreaths Across America.
Luann started her volunteer efforts with Wreaths Across America in 2015 after hearing about it from a friend who was participating with her DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) group. She's working to sponsor wreaths to cover all of the known heroes laid to rest at Oaklawn.
"I always choose our drivers who are military veterans for these loads and they are proud and honored to have the opportunity to recognize our fallen heroes and their families."
In referencing the Wreaths Across America Stem to Stone Remembrance Tree program Roger spoke to the value and necessity of "planting seeds of patriotism" in younger generations.
Monica explains Maverick has a tremendous amount of pride hauling America's respect and not only do they assign the wreath loads to their drivers who are veterans but those drivers are some of the industry's best.
The September edition of the Military Musicians Showcase goes out to jazz lovers!
As Aaron Van Beek, Location Coordinator for Sioux Center, Iowa placed Chris Kyle's tag in Maine the announcement was made that the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation and Wreaths Across America have agreed to collaborate with the support of their respective programs.
Helen told us about her brother, Ralph H. Johnson, who received the Medal of Honor posthumously following his heroic actions in Vietnam in 1968.
Yes. At Wreaths Across America, we've heard about the "Walmart Heart," and we're honored to be welcoming a group next month that has decided to combine their charity effort with their patriotism and respect.
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.