Local youth help lay wreaths at Arlington
Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office Explorer Post 245 traveled to Arlington National Cemetery on Dec. 12 as did Cub Scout Pack 42 which meets at Asbury Methodist Church in Charles Town and Girl Scout Troop 40287 meeting at Wright Denny Intermediate School..
The groups went as part of the Wreaths Across American organization, dedicated to placing wreaths on the headstones of our fallen veterans across the country.
Wreaths are shipped to cemeteries across the U.S., where volunteers then do the tedious, but honorable task of placing the wreaths on the headstones.
The tradition of placing the wreaths began in 1992 when Morrill Worcester, owner of Worcester Wreath Company, in Harrington, Maine, took extra wreaths at the end of the season to Arlington and placed them on a section of graves not often visited by the public. Worcester had visited the cemetery when he was a young boy where Arlington Cemetery made a lasting impression on him.
According to the Wreaths Across America website, 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.
As the call for more wreaths came, Worcester was unable to donate them so he contributed seven wreaths to every state, one for each branch of the military, and for POW/MIAs. In 2006, with the help of the Civil Air Patrol and other civic organizations, simultaneous wreath laying ceremonies were held at over 150 locations around the country. The Patriot Guard Riders volunteered as escort for the wreaths going to Arlington. This began the annual “Veterans Honor Parade” that travels the east coast in early December.
In 2007 the Worcester family founded Wreaths Across America to continue and expand the wreath-laying efforts not only at Arlington but around the country.
In 2014, Wreaths Across America and a national network of volunteers laid over 700,000 memorial wreaths at 1,000 locations in the United States and beyond. This was accomplished with help from fundraising groups, corporate contributions, and donations of trucking, shipping, and thousands of helping hands. The goal of covering Arlington National Cemetery was accomplished in 2014 with the placement of 226,525 wreaths.
The 2015 Wreaths Across America Day fell on Dec. 12. Explorer Post leaders Tim and Hannah Clarke took four members of the Post, Jimmy Garrard, Angel Diaz, Griffin Lindsey-Severns and Zachary Glorfield, to join nearly 70,000 volunteers at the cemetery to help place wreaths on nearly 400,000 graves.
Byron Royal, a leader with Cub Scout Pack 42, along with leaders of the Girl Scout Troop 40287, escorted 19 members of those groups to the cemetery where they also helped lay the wreaths. The Cub Scout pack had journeyed to Arlington during a previous wreath-laying day and plan to continue to do so in the future.
Tim Clarke shared that the Explorer Post members were able to visit some of the sites in the cemetery where they were able to watch the changing of the guard ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
The Explorers had collected donations for approximately two months to help fund the purchase of some wreaths for the project. The purchasing of wreaths by organizations has become a fundraising effort as the groups collecting are able to earn a small percentage of the wreath price to help support their own organizations.
According to Clarke, “The most important purpose for this program [for the Explorer Post] was to teach the youth about the sheer multitutde of people who have given their lives to protect the rights that we as Americans enjoy everyday.”
Clarke went on to share, “The youth were able to experience the felling of having so many people getting together to do something as awesome as honoring our Veterans-70,000 people volunteering their time for one common goal is an amazing sight!”
The Explorer Post youth were amazed not only by the number of people helping with the cause, but also with the number of graves at the cemetery. Most of them had never experienced anything like this event and are already planning to make it an annual journey.
The wreath laying is held annually, on the second or third Saturday of December. The original 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 to remind people how important it is to remember, honor and teach.