Who Steals Wreaths?

English: PENSACOLA, Fla. (Dec. 11, 2010) Wreat...

Remember my ‘Wreaths Across America’ post? (I know you all read it and re-read it and then printed it and taped it to your headboards so that it is the first thing you see when you wake up in the morning…) Anyway, a number of volunteers participated in the event at Glacier Memorial Gardens in Kalispell, Montana by laying wreaths on veterans’ graves to honor their memory. And then days later, someone stole them.

As reported by Tristan Scott:

Volunteers placed 500 wreaths on veterans’ graves at a memorial cemetery north of Kalispell last weekend and within days about half of them had been stolen.

“At first I thought, this can’t be. Who would steal wreaths from a cemetery?” said Dale Rodwick, senior member of the Flathead Composite Squadron MT053 of the U.S. Civil Air Patrol, which dedicated the wreaths as part of the national Wreaths Across America campaign.

The wreaths were placed at Glacier Memorial Gardens on Dec. 10 by cadets of the squadron, which adopted the cemetery and helps care for the 850 veteran grave sites there.

Rodwick said he believes the thefts of roughly 250 wreaths occurred Monday, and local law enforcement has since been canvassing Christmas tree lots in case the wreaths were stolen to be resold.

“We don’t know if someone is trying to resell them or if they are just vandals,” Rodwick said.

He estimated the value of the missing wreaths at around $3,000, and said Friday that the Worcester Wreath Co. in Maine was donating 100 wreaths to help recoup losses. The new wreaths will arrive sometime next week, and Rodwick said the squadron will organize a brief re-dedication ceremony at the time.

“It looks as though there is a happy ending to this story as Christmas approaches,” he said. “The fact that we can get some wreaths back to the veterans is good news.”

Sigh. Stories like these no longer surprise me because it seems cemeteries get vandalized almost every day. Cemetery thieves steal bronze memorial plaques, flowers, grave decorations and anything else they can get their grubby little hands on. And unless cemetery management can afford 24-hr video cams or night security, there’s not much they can do to stop theft or vandalism.
But really, who steals a wreath off a veterans’ grave? That’s a new low. Especially during the holidays – what happened to ‘Peace on earth and good will to all?’ I hope they find these creeps soon and punish them severely.



Wreaths Across America

“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.

Hundreds of volunteers gathered at Arlington t...

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.