Or sponsor a Specific Cemetery or Local Sponsorship Group

The Roots of Wreaths Across America

our story karen and morrill worcester

Morrill Worcester, Founder of Wreaths Across America, and his wife Karen Worcester, Executive Director

This is a story for anyone who has ever wondered if one person could make a difference in the lives of millions.

Morrill Worcester, owner of Worcester Wreath Company of Harrington, Maine, was a 12-year old paper boy when he won a trip to Washington D.C. It was his first to our nation’s capital and one that would change the trajectory of his life and the lives of millions of others across the country. Seeing the hundreds of thousands of graves and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery made an especially indelible impression on him. It was to be an experience that would follow him throughout his life and successful career, reminding him that his good fortune was due, in large part, to the values of his nation and the veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

In 1992, Worcester Wreath found themselves with a surplus of wreaths nearing the end of the holiday season. Remembering his boyhood experience at Arlington, Worcester realized he had an opportunity to honor our country’s veterans. With the aid of Maine Senator Olympia Snowe (ret), arrangements were made for the surplus wreaths to be placed at Arlington in one of the older cemetery sections that had been receiving fewer visitors each passing year.

As plans were underway to transport the wreaths to Washington, a number of other individuals and organizations stepped up to help. James Prout, owner of local trucking company Blue Bird Ranch, Inc., generously provided transportation all the way to Virginia. Volunteers from the local American Legion and VFW Posts gathered with members of the community to decorate each wreath with traditional red, hand-tied bows. Members of the Maine State Society of Washington D.C., helped to organize the wreath-laying, which included a special ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

For over a decade, this annual tribute went on quietly and privately. Everything changed in 2005, when a photo of the stones at Arlington, adorned with wreaths and covered in snow, circulated around the internet. Suddenly, the homespun tribute from a small town in downeast Maine was receiving national attention. Thousands of requests poured in from all over the country from people wanting to help purchase and lay wreaths at Arlington. Thousands more wanted to emulate the Arlington project at their local National and State cemeteries. Still others simply desired to share their stories and thank Morrill Worcester for honoring our nation’s heroes. Many were surviving family members of some of those heroes.

Unable to donate thousands of wreaths to each state, Worcester began sending seven wreaths to every state: One for each branch of the military and an additional wreath to pray tribute to POW/MIAs. In 2006, with the help of the Civil Air Patrol and other civic organizations, simultaneous wreath-laying ceremonies were held at over 150 locations around the country. The Patriot Guard Riders volunteered as escorts for the wreaths going to Arlington in the beginnings of the annual “Veterans Honor Parade,” a convoy that now travels the east coast every year in early December.

portrait flagwreath

The annual trip to Arlington and the groups of volunteers eager to participate in Worcester’s simple wreath-laying event grew each year until it became clear that the desire to remember and honor our country’s fallen heroes was bigger than he could have imagined possible at the outset. The movement had grown beyond Arlington and bigger than this one company in Harrington, Maine.

In 2007, the Worcester family, along with the support of veterans organizations and a variety of other groups and individuals who had helped with their annual veterans wreath ceremony in Arlington, formed Wreaths Across America, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, to continue and expand this effort, and support others around the country who wanted to do the same. The simple mission of the organization was established:

Remember. Honor. Teach.

Just one year later, over 300 locations held wreath-laying ceremonies in every state, Puerto Rico and 24 overseas cemeteries. Over 100,000 wreaths were placed on veterans’ graves. Over 60,000 volunteers participated. And that year, December 13, 2008 was unanimously voted by the United States Congress as “Wreaths Across America Day."

In 2014, a goal of placing a veteran's wreath on every grave marker was met with the sponsorship and placement of 226,525 wreaths.

In 2018, a delegation of volunteers and supporters were invited by the American Battle Monuments Commission to hold a wreath ceremony to honor the nearly 10,000 heros interred at Normandy American Cemetery in France.

In 2022, Wreaths Across America and its national network of volunteers placed more than 2.7 million sponsored veterans' wreaths on headstones of our nation's service members at 3,702 participating locations. This was accomplished with the support of more than 5,000 sponsorship groups, corporation contributions, and in-kind donations from the transportation industry across the country.

The wreath-laying that began more than 30 years ago is still held annually, on the second or third Saturday of December. WAA's annual pilgrimage from Harrington, Maine to Arlington National Cemetery has become known as “the world’s largest veterans’ parade." Every year the convoy of trucks, local law enforcement, staff and supporters stop at schools, monuments, veterans’ homes and communities along the way to talk about the Wreaths Across America mission and remind people how important it is to remember, honor and teach.

Wreaths Across America is committed to teaching all generations about the value of their freedoms, and the importance of honoring those who sacrificed so much to protect those freedoms. In 2022, the organization launched its expanded TEACH program and collaboration with like-minded organizations focused on character development and service projects for young people of all ages, with lesson plans for all grade levels and learning abilities.

Wreaths Across America would not be successful without the help of volunteers, active organizations and the generosity of the trucking industry, which offer invaluable support to WAA's mission to remember the men and women who served our country, honor our military and their families, and teach our children about our freedom and those who protect it. There are many ways you can help—learn more about how you can get involved by perusing our site, signing up to receive our newsletter and/or visiting the Wreaths Across America Museum in Columbia Falls, Maine.

What does it mean to Remember, Honor, and Teach?

While we have Veterans Day in the fall and Memorial Day in the spring, our servicemen and women sacrifice their time and safety every single day of the year, to preserve our freedoms. In many American homes, every day there is an empty seat for one who is serving or one who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country and never came home. That is why the Wreaths Across America mission to Remember, Honor and Teach lasts all year long, far beyond the single day in December when we coordinate wreath-laying ceremonies. All throughout the year, Wreaths Across America works in a number of ways to show our veterans and their families that we will not forget—we will never forget. Read on to see the many ways we Remember and Honor our veterans, and Teach the next generation to do the same.

“To be killed in war is not the worst that can happen. To be lost is not the worst that can happen… to be forgotten is the worst.”
— Pierre Claeyssens (1909-2003)

Who We Remember

From the Revolutionary War to present day conflicts, our veterans are devoted sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers. They come from all backgrounds in life to place those lives on the line for our freedoms. There are millions of individual stories to tell. Get to know them by viewing the 4,760 recent posts made by our supporters or sponsor a wreath in honor of or in memory of an American hero.

Meet The Heroes

When a volunteer places a wreath on a veteran's grave on National Wreaths Across America Day, we encourage them to speak that veteran's name aloud, thank them for their service and sacrifice, and reflect on that person and their life. Along with our wreath-laying ceremonies at cemeteries throughout the country, WAA also holds a number of special memorial ceremonies, including:

* Special memorials held at Pearl Harbor, the Pentagon and Shanksville, Pennsylvania
* The HART Ceremony (Honoring Allies and Remembering Together), conducted each year to honor veterans of our nation’s allies in ceremonies on international border-crossing bridges between Calais, Maine, and St. Stephen, New Brunswick; Detroit, Michigan, and Windsor, Ontario; and Sweetwater, Montana, and the Alaskan/Canadian border
* WAA-hosted statehouse ceremonies in nearly all 50 states

In addition, WAA continues its commitment to remember our fallen servicemen and women all throughout the year with the following:

Remembrance Tree Program

Rex Bragg Dog Tags
This program is open to all families who have had a loved one in the military. For more information, please call: 1-877-385-9504

The Remembrance Tree Program was established as another way to remember and honor our veterans. As many Gold Star families visited the land where the balsam tips are harvested each year for the wreaths that are placed on veteran’s graves, they found a sense of peace and tranquility from being in such peaceful surrounds. To ensure that more could experience this unique place, WAA established this program to provide a living memorial to their lost loved ones.

Any family may participate in this program by providing information on their loved one. Due to the overwhelming support of this program, WAA has purchased its own dog-tag machine, allowing the families of the veteran the ability to customize their message for the tag. The family is then taken out to the balsam tip land to find a tree that will become a living memorial to their loved one. The dog-tag is then placed on the trunk of an evergreen tree of their choosing and a red marker is placed on the tree to show that it has been chosen as a memorial. The trees are kept in production and are tipped every three years with those balsam tips being used to make the veteran’s wreaths that are placed each December.

Request a Tree Tag Donate to this Program

How We Honor Those Who Serve

Wreaths Across America conducts several programs to honor our veterans, including our popular “Thanks-A-Million” campaign, which distributes FREE thank-you cards to people all over the country to share with veterans as a simple thank-you for their service.

The organization participates in veterans’ events throughout the year and has a veteran liaison on staff to work with local veterans’ organizations, as well as public outreach through Veterans Day and Memorial Day programs, public service announcements, press coverage and the WAA website.

The Mission Continues

Service, Sacrifice, Success

While coordinating wreath-laying ceremonies each December on National Wreaths Across America Day is the most visible part of what we do, our mission to Remember, Honor, and Teach is carried out throughout the year. Our service members and veterans deserve (and sometimes need) our support all year round. At WAA, we believe it's our responsibility to invest in our living veterans so that they may thrive in our communities.

Since 2007, our $5 pay-back group sponsorship program has resulted in more than $20 million in contributions being made to organizations around the country; enabling them to provide care for our active duty service members, veterans, and their families.

Wreaths Across America believes in a “no wrong door" approach to serving our veterans. We're often asked, “I'm worried, and I don't know who to ask?" There are many resources available and, in the interest of promoting a whole community approach, we've attempted to compile a list of those resources.

Our listing is constantly growing. If you are an organization providing support to veterans in your community please contact our Director of Military and Veteran Engagement by selecting the "Add A Resource" button below.

In honor of Jessie King In memory of his teammate SSG Joshua J Bowden Army EOD  - Veteran

What we Teach future generations

Wreaths Across America is proud to share its expanded TEACH program and collaboration with like-minded organizations that focuses on character development and service projects for young people of all ages, with lesson plans for all grade levels and learning abilities. To learn more and download WAA’s TEACH materials, please click here: Our TEACH Page.

What is a Veteran's Wreath?

Each balsam bouquet that comprises a veteran's wreath symbolizes a special quality. Please check out the materials below that help to explain those qualities in order to help to deepen your and your child's understanding and personal connection with our core mission.