"We are not put on this earth for ourselves but are placed here for each other. If you are there always for others, then in time of need, someone will be there for you." - Jeff Warner
Wreaths Across America understands our military is always there in the time of need and the mission to remember the fallen, honor those who serve and their families, and teach younger generations the value of freedom offers our volunteers the opportunity to be there for them. As the WAA Stem to Stone program motto states, "You stood to serve, we stand to support."
No other organization unites the amount of committed and compassionate volunteers as Wreaths Across America, and we applaud their remarkable community service as they work countless hours to be sure no hometown hero is ever forgotten.
Nicole Pelletier is one of those volunteers. She's a thirty-one-year-old mother of two who finds the time for substitute teaching and community service.
Nicole and her husband started volunteering with Wreaths Across America while living in Maryland and joined the wreath-laying effort at Arlington National Cemetry for three years before moving to Massachusetts.
"I searched in our area, and there was nothing immediate with everything an hour or more away," Nicole explains. "So I said, hey why not, let's start a ceremony here."
Nicole says because she's a somewhat shy person she knew her greatest challenge was going to be fundraising for wreath sponsorships, but she persevered and moved forward as the new WAA Location Coordinator for the Fairview Cemetery in Westford Massachusetts.
"I knew nothing about fundraising and was way out of my comfort zone, so I took out books from the library, I got in touch with our local representative who gave me ideas, I even reached out to the local school's parent-teacher organization because I knew they had experience. I have to admit though because of the warmth and excitement around the Wreaths Across America mission it got a lot easier as I went along."
Nicole's military connections are an additional motivating factor. Her Grandfather, PFC Frank Fazio served in the USMC during the Korean War. Her cousins both serve, one who will be deployed soon to the Middle East and her husband works for a civilian company serving the Department of Defense.
Nicole says her efforts fundraising for Wreaths Across America always brings about personal stories that often come from complete strangers.
"I've had people open up to me and say, 'Oh my Father is buried in that cemetery' and some veterans have said to me, 'I'm so glad someone will remember me when I'm gone."
It was last season when eight inches of snow fell on Fairview Cemetery on Wreaths Across America Day, and the volunteer scheduled to lay a wreath to represent the U.S. Coast Guard during the ceremony was unable to attend. That's when a car rolled in, and two high school aged boys got out of a car with Coast Guard plates. When Nicole asked the woman driving about the plates she informed Nicole her husband and the boys' father was deployed overseas with the U.S. Coast Guard.
"I thought it was such a good time to have this Coast Guard family show up just in the nick of time and I asked if the boys would be willing to place the ceremonial wreath during the opening ceremony, and they did a great job," recalls Nicole. "Just to see the next generation stepping up and people I didn't know going out of their way traveling through eight inches of snow to volunteer brought tears to my eyes as I watched them lay that wreath."
Nicole's whole family gets involved in the Wreaths Across America effort. Her mother who works full-time donated several hours last year hand-painting signs.
Nicole says she's thankful for those fellow Location Coordinators who have helped her and she's honored to provide the same support to those who might be thinking about starting a Wreaths Across America ceremony in their community cemetery.
As a former Mainer familiar with Rick Charette, Nicole was thrilled to learn this year's theme is I'm an American, Yes I Am!
Nicole says her goal in 2017 is to cover all of Fairview Cemetery and adding the historic Russian Brotherhood Cemetery as well and that her local Kiwanis Club and others have been supporting her efforts to make sure no one's forgotten in December.
Just as we did Judy Carlile, Charlotte Chism Waldrum and Diana Pitts Wreaths Across America gives Location Coordinator Nicole Pelletier a "high five" for her volunteer efforts to remember the fallen, honor those who serve and teach younger generations the value of freedom.
If you're in Nicole's neck of the woods in Massachusetts consider joining her team of hard-working volunteers, or show your respect through community service at Arlington National Cemetery or at any of our other 1,228 participating cemeteries throughout the country.
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."
The Civil Air Patrol Cadets meant the world to Rick. For three years he accompanied cadets to Arlington National Cemetery and assisted with laying wreaths at the cemetery. This trip changed the lives of many cadets.
"It was so moving coming down I95 because people were waving flags, honking their horns, giving us thumbs up, and saluting us."
"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."