Veterans and volunteers can help lay wreaths at Shiloh National Cemetery

DEC. 14 – A Wreaths Across America ceremony will be held at Shiloh National Cemetery on Saturday, Dec. 16, at 11 a.m.

“Wreaths will be placed at 510 graves, demonstrating the non-profit’s mission as ‘Remember. Honor. Teach.’” said C.D. Rickman, Hardin County Veterans Services director.

Veterans and volunteers are invited to help lay the wreaths. This year’s theme is “I’m an American.”

“The courage and sacrifice of our military veterans should never be forgotten. You have a chance to show them your appreciation and gratitude,” said Rickman.

The history of Wreaths Across America began with a young boy’s visit to Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington County, Virginia.

 

Morrill Worcester, owner of Worcester Wreath Company of Harrington, Maine, was a 12-year-old paperboy for the Bangor Daily News when he won a trip to Washington, D.C. His first trip to the nation’s capital was one he would never forget, and Arlington National Cemetery made an especially indelible impression on him. This experience followed him throughout his life and successful career, reminding him that his good fortune was due, in large part, to the values of this nation and the veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

In 1992, Worcester Wreath found itself 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 the country’s veterans.

With the aid of Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe, arrangements were made for the wreaths to be placed at Arlington in one of the older sections of the cemetery that had been receiving fewer visitors with each passing year.

The annual tribute went on quietly for several years, until 2005, when a photo of the stones at Arlington, adorned with wreaths and covered in snow, circulated around the internet. Suddenly, the project received national attention. 

Thousands of requests poured in from all over the country from people wanting to help with Arlington, to emulate the Arlington project at their National and State cemeteries, or to simply share their stories and thank Morrill Worcester for honoring the nation’s heroes.

In 2007, the Worcester family, along with veterans, and other groups and individuals who had helped with their annual veterans wreath ceremony in Arlington, formed Wreaths Across America, a non-profit 501c3 organization, to continue and expand this effort, and support other groups around the country who wanted to do the same. 

In 2008, more than 300 locations held wreath-laying ceremonies in every state, Puerto Rico and 24 overseas cemeteries. More than 100,000 wreaths were placed on veterans’ graves. More than 60,000 volunteers participated. And on Dec. 13, 2008, the day was unanimously voted by the US Congress as “Wreaths Across America Day.”

In 2014, Wreaths Across America and its national network of volunteers laid more than 700,000 memorial wreaths at 1,000 locations in the United States and beyond, including ceremonies at the Pearl Harbor Memorial, as well as Bunker Hill, Valley Forge and the sites of the Sept. 11 tragedies. This was accomplished with help from 2,047 fundraising groups, corporate contributions, and donations of trucking, shipping and thousands of helping hands. The organization’s goal of covering Arlington National Cemetery was met in 2014 with the placement of 226,525 wreaths.

The wreath-laying 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, stopping at schools, monuments, veterans homes and communities all along the way.

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