In early December every year, the Wreaths Across America Honor Fleet returns. Hundreds of volunteer long-haul truckers roll into Columbia Falls, Maine to pick up a precious cargo: red ribbon trimmed live balsam fir wreaths. Those wreaths will mark the graves of American heroes all across the country on December 17, which is National Wreaths Across America Day. From border to border, coast to coast, they will deliver on the promise to remember our veterans.
This annual trek began in 1992, when Morrill Worcester, owner of Worcester Wreath Company in Harrington, Maine, found himself with a surplus of wreaths during the holidays. Remembering a boyhood trip to Arlington National Cemetery, he decided to donate the wreaths to honor our country’s interred veterans whose sacrifices paid for our country’s freedoms. The owner of a local trucking company provided transportation to Arlington, where volunteers from the local American Legion and VFW Posts gathered with members of the community to place the wreaths. Mr. Worcester arranged for the wreaths to be laid in an older section of the cemetery where the veterans received fewer visitors each year. He also organized a ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Fifteen years later the national non-profit Wreaths Across America was incorporated to open this tradition to veterans and volunteers across the country. In 2022 nearly 2.5 million wreaths will leave Maine, headed to more than 3,700 cemeteries in all fifty states, part of the continuing mission of Wreaths Across America, to honor and remember our veterans and to teach younger generations about their sacrifices.
Widely known as the country’s longest veterans’ parade – known as “the Escort to Arlington” – will depart Maine on December 10th on a seven-day trek down the east coast to Arlington National Cemetery. The caravan of truckers, veterans of all generations, veteran service organizations, Blue-Star families and Gold-Star mothers will stop at schools, memorials, and other locations along the way to spread their mission: remember, honor and teach.
“For me, the Escort to Arlington is the culmination of another year of sharing the mission to Remember, Honor and Teach across this country. I say it every year, but it is truly an experience of a lifetime,” said Karen Worcester, Executive Director, WAA. “The way the mission and these families and veterans are welcomed into communities, with flags waving and streets lined with children and grateful Americans, is something we always wished every person could witness. This year we’re hoping that supporters will once again join us in safely lining the roadways and welcoming the escort into their communities.”
On National Wreaths Across America Day, nearly 2 million volunteers will be waiting to place the wreaths, saying each veteran’s name aloud in remembrance of his or her service. For many, this will be the only recognition they have received in years. To learn about events taking place and participating cemeteries near you, go to wreathsacrossamerica.org.
Wreaths Across America is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. The organization’s mission – Remember, Honor, Teach – is carried out in part each year by coordinating wreath-laying ceremonies in December at Arlington, as well as at participating locations in all 50 states.