In this season of giving, the thoughts of all Americans turn to those who have given us the most precious gift of all, our freedom. All Mainers should be proud that an incredibly inspiring and generous expression of America’s gratitude began right here in our state.
|From L to R: Members of Senator Collins’ staff; Kevin Kelley of Damariscotta, Linda Jalbert of Union, Liz Johnson of China, Amy Carroll and Holly Nesbit|
Each December for the past 16 years, Morrill and Karen Worcester, owners of the Worcester Wreath Company in Harrington, have taken time during their busiest season to haul a truckload of wreaths to Arlington National Cemetery to mark the graves of some of our fallen heroes. From the start, the considerable transportation cost has been borne by another outstanding Washington County company, Blue Bird Ranch Trucking of Jonesboro.
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 called "Wreaths Across America."
This year, Worcester Wreath doubled its donation to Arlington to 10,000 wreaths. In addition, the company donated several thousand wreaths to more than 200 veterans cemeteries in every state, to 24 veterans cemeteries on foreign soil, and even to our Navy ships at sea.
The wreaths were laid in simultaneous ceremonies at all locations on the morning of December 15th. Hundreds of volunteers took part at Arlington, including members of my Washington staff. Continuing a tradition of Maine schoolchildren combining a Washington trip with this great event, students from the Margaret Chase Smith Elementary School in Skowhegan joined the other volunteers.
The sight of all those wreaths laid on that hallowed ground is truly overwhelming. But you don’t have to travel all the way to Washington to see this vivid expression of patriotism and gratitude. This year, Wreaths Across America provided 2,500 wreaths to the National Veterans Cemetery at Togus, here in Maine. Under the leadership of the Civil Air Patrol, which has taken on the task of organizing these ceremonies throughout the country, more than 100 volunteers turned out on a frigid morning to lend a hand and to pay their respects.
In creating Wreaths Across America, Morrill and Karen Worcester sought to bring children and veterans together as a way of expressing appreciation for the sacrifices our veterans and their families make for our country. As just one example of this, the eighth-grade students at Camden-Rockport Middle School who have been chosen for their Japan Exchange Program donated part of the proceeds from the fund-raising for their trip to Wreaths Across America and joined in the wreath-laying at Togus. The sight of young teens working side-by-side with aged veterans in the cold weather and deep snow is powerful evidence that Morrill and Karen’s vision has become a reality.
Wreaths Across America honors our fallen heroes, but it does even more. It tells the veterans still with us that we honor their service. It tells the families of the departed that we share their loss. It tells our men and women in uniform today that we are grateful for their courage, sacrifice, and devotion to duty.
Morrill Worcester describes his commitment to Wreaths Across America this way: "I make it my business never to forget." Thanks to him and Karen, to the dedicated employees of Worcester Wreath and Blue Bird Ranch, and to the thousands of supporters throughout our nation, America will never forget.