“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)
On December 10, hundreds of thousands of wreaths were laid at the graves of veterans all over the nation. This annual ceremony was organized by Wreaths Across America, a non-profit organization, and the program is a continuation and expansion of the Arlington National Cemetery wreath laying ceremony begun by Morrill Worcester in 1992.
Morrill Worcester started laying wreaths at Arlington because he wanted to give back. “I personally believe I owe a great deal to every veteran that’s out there. I’m a very lucky man to be able to live in this country and enjoy all it has to offer, and in some small way to be able to thank veterans for all they’ve done for all of us.” According to the Wreaths Across America website, this is how it all began:
Morrill Worcester, owner of Worcester Wreath Company of Harrington, Maine, was a 12 year old paper boy for the Bangor Daily News when he won a trip to Washington D.C. His first trip to our 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 in business, 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 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 help of Maine Senator Olympia Snowe, arrangements were made for the wreaths to be placed at Arlington in one of the older sections of the cemetery, a section which had been receiving fewer visitors with each passing year.
As plans were underway, 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.
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 our nation’s heroes.
Morrill and I think alike – we believe that our loved ones should be honored and never forgotten. And veterans especially deserve to be remembered for making the ultimate sacrifice. That’s why I do what I do and I fully intend to participate in next year’s wreath laying ceremony. Let me know if you’d like to join me.
- Wreaths Across America (usnavyjagcorps.wordpress.com)