Wreaths Across America is humbled by and grateful for our volunteer force across this great nation. No other organization in this country can claim the amount of diverse, dedicated, and compassionate people who are committed to paying tribute to the courage and sacrifice of our nation's military and their families.
As we experience unprecedented growth, Wreaths Across America recognizes the need to better communicate with our volunteers and provide them with the tools and resources necessary to accomplish the mission to remember our fallen, honor those who serve and their families and teach younger generations the value of freedom.
We are celebrating the successful completion of our very first S.W.A.T. (Special Wreaths Advisory Team) Training at our headquarters in Maine which provided an invaluable opportunity for the Wreaths Across America staff to meet with and learn from location and fundraising group leaders from across the country. Together, the group examined strengths and weaknesses of the organization while gaining invaluable insight into what motivates one another to support the mission with such passion.
The first S.W.A.T. Team training brought together: Carol Davis from Fort Jackson National Cemetery in South Carolina; Beth Sattizahn from Fort Indiantown Gap National Cemetery in Pennsylvania; Randy Lewer from Florida National Cemetery; Debbie Bennet from Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Illinois; Ellen Fuller from Texas State Cemetery; Judy Carlile from Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in Texas; Gaylene Ramos from San Joaquin Valley National Cemetery in California and Tamara Earp with the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery.
The group discussed a variety of communications channels, fundraising strategies, nonprofit finance and regulations management, community awareness and education. They also shared a lot of laughs and tears typical of the Wreaths Across America experience.
During the three-day training, volunteers visited the tip land to see the balsam fir tipping process, make a wreath with Wreaths Across America's founder Morrill Worcester, and tag remembrance trees. Judy Carlile has been to Maine previously to select a remembrance tree and hang her husband's replica dog tags from its branches. She describes the meaning of her visit to Jim's tree.
"To know that your loved one's dog tags are hanging on a tree and that tree continues to grow year after year is amazing. It's a living legacy to that person to know that when it's that trees turn to be tipped for the making of a veterans' wreath, his memory continues not just in death. It took my heart away to be able to visit Jim's tree and see it flourishing."
"Our volunteers play such a huge role in our mission, and they're the boots on the ground teaching our children about character," shared Karen Worcester, Wreaths Across America's Executive Director. "There's a generation of kids in America who need to learn why this country is the best one out there and why it's worth the fight. We want our volunteers to be energized and truly understand what's behind Wreaths Across America so they can answer the questions in their communities to get people involved."
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. With over 1,400 participating locations and more being added Wreaths Across America plans to host regional volunteer training and information sessions where volunteers and staff can collaborate on creative ideas and solutions.
All participants gathered for the first S.W.A.T. training agreed that Wreaths Across America is not about the wreath and one-day event as much as it is about the ceremonies remembering and honoring veterans and their families and teaching younger generations about respect and gratitude.
Wreaths Across America announced that its Executive Director Karen Worcester and Founder Morrill Worcester were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor Society’s Patriot Award, the highest award the Society can bestow to an individual.
I was a Navy spouse for 12 years and during that time we lost over two dozen of our closest friends. Most of whom are buried at Arlington National Cemetery and Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego.
Photo Contest Winners Announced
Wreaths Across America chose the 2018 Mid-America Trucking Show (MATS) in Louisville, KY, from March 22-24 to debut its newly designed Traveling Education Exhibit. This 48-foot display trailer hooked to its Chevy truck was loaded with many “hands on” technology and interactive information about the program to help visitors learn about the mission to Remember, Honor, and Teach.
Chairman of the Board of Directors, Wayne Hanson was honored to be one of the Wreaths Across America team accompanying the exhibit, where one of the more memorable things he had the pleasure of doing was to say two words to some of those present…”Welcome Home!”
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."
To better serve our volunteers in 2018 and beyond, we're reorganizing and providing more tools to support their inspiring efforts.
"I witnessed a few of the boys laying an "in honor of" wreath. They did it with reverence."
Guided by an infrangible faith when the supply of lifejackets ran out they gave up their own to save the lives of others.
"I went up to that hill and looked at all of those graves of my colleagues who have gone before me.
Volunteers planning to assist in removing wreaths are asked to attend a short briefing at the McClellan Gate at 8:30 a.m. and to follow these guidelines.
As witnessed through this video, the volunteer commitment of patriotic citizens is a year-round effort that culminates in a remarkable day of unity, friendship, and healing.
Some give the ultimate sacrifice of a loved one and are often left in sorrow to wonder if other citizens remember or appreciate what they gave up for liberty and justice for all.
Wreaths Across America knows some of the finest musicians out there are members of our military performance groups. Each month, we like to feature the musical works of those talented individuals.