In this season of giving, our thoughts turn to those who have given us the most precious gift of all: our freedom. We Mainers can be proud that an inspiring and generous expression of America’s gratitude began right here in our state.
This marks the 23rd year that the Worcester Wreath Company in Harrington has spearheaded an effort known as “Wreaths Across America.” Since its inception, the Wreaths Across America project has become an annual tradition of donating, transporting, and placing Maine balsam fir remembrance wreaths on the graves of our fallen heroes buried at Arlington National Cemetery, as well as at Veterans’ cemeteries and memorials in every state and overseas. In the program’s first 23 years, more than 1.7 million wreaths have been placed in honor of those who have served our country.
In recognition of the Worcester family’s hard work and the generosity of all those who have helped in the effort, the United States Senate unanimously passed a Resolution that I authored, which Senator Angus King cosponsored, designating December 13, 2014, as “Wreaths Across America Day.”
On this December 13, thousands of volunteers, across the river in Arlington, throughout our nation, at such overseas locations as Normandy, and on our Navy ships at sea, will carry out the mission of Wreaths Across America to “Remember, Honor, Teach.” This will be the culmination of a week-long procession between Maine and Virginia, with stops along the way to spread a message about the importance of remembering and honoring those who serve, and teaching the people of the United States about the sacrifices made by Veterans and their families.
This year, as in years past, the Patriot Guard Riders, along with other patriotic groups and Maine’s First Lady Ann LePage, will escort the tractor-trailers filled with donated wreaths from Maine to Arlington National Cemetery. America’s trucking industry will continue to support Wreaths Across America by providing drivers, equipment, fuel, and related services to assist in the transportation of wreaths across the country to more than 1,000 locations.
In recent years, Wreaths Across America has provided some 130,000 wreaths to Arlington National Cemetery. To mark Arlington’s 150th anniversary, the goal this year is to decorate each of the 230,000 Veterans’ graves and memorials on that hallowed ground. Thanks to the generosity and gratitude of the American people, this goal will surely be achieved.
The origin of Wreaths Across America is an inspiring example of that generosity and gratitude. During the Christmas season in 1991, Morrill and Karen Worcester took time during their busiest season to donate and deliver 5,000 wreaths from their company in Harrington, Maine, to Arlington National Cemetery to honor the heroes who lie at rest there. At first, a small band of volunteers laid the wreaths quietly and with little notice. In recent years, however, the Arlington Wreath Project has grown to become a national phenomenon. The people of Maine are proud that this heartfelt gesture of America’s gratitude began in our state.
Wreaths Across America honors our departed heroes, but it does even more. It tells the Veterans still with us that we honor their service. It tells our men and women in uniform today that we are grateful for their courage and devotion to duty. It tells the families of those serving our country that they are in our thoughts and prayers. And it tells the families of the fallen that we share their grief.
Throughout human history, the evergreen wreath has been offered as a tribute to heroes. On December 13, we will again offer this enduring symbol of valor and sacrifice. In this season of giving, we will pay tribute to those who have given us the most precious gift of all, our freedom.