I just finished going through this morning’s 20-something emails; mostly from organizations I don’t know, except maybe one. “Dear Bill and Linda would you be interested in renewing your gift of four wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery again this Holiday Season….”
I read it again. I’m puzzled. All four of our parents are buried at Arlington, but I don’t remember buying any wreaths. I wish I had, but I just don’t recall…but ya know, of all the things I’ve lost I do miss my mind the most. Hmmm… I head downstairs in search of my memory—Big El. I find her on the first try, in her studio, where she’s knocking out a pastel still life of apples – metallic blue apples. “Sorry to interrupt but do you remem… “ Wow! They are indelibly magnificent. “Those apples…they are apples, right?” “Right, I was trying for ‘perceptive contradiction’ and I think I got it.” I search for something appropriately artsy –fartsy to say, and come up with…”COOL.”
She looks at me quizzically but takes my critique as a compliment, even though a few more artsy-fartsy words from me, the supposed wordsmith, would have been…well… more cooler. “Thank you. So do I remember what?” Silence from me. Why am I here? I can’t remember. I stall… “Hey, aren’t apples usually green or red…like Christmas?” “Yes,” she answers, “but I wanted to startle the eye.” The tumblers in my noggin’ finally click into place, and I cut her off with “That’s It!! Christmas Wreaths…Eureka. I got an email from an outfit called Wreaths Across America. It says that on December 15 more than 10,000 volunteers intend to cover each of the 253,000 Veterans’ graves at Arlington National Cemetery, and they want to know if we will again sponsor four wreaths at $15 each. Do you remember us doing that last year?”
Of course she does, because her tumblers are lubricated with protein power shakes rather than distilled spirits…her loss. “Of course I do. Last Thanksgiving I…DON’T touch that!” The offending hand snaps back from the apples, and I pretend it wasn’t mine. Eyes wide with surprise, she gives me that ‘what were you thinking look?’ Immediately, I slap my thoughtless hand. WHACK. “Bad hand, bad…You, uhm, you were saying: Last Thanksgiving…” She softens and continues (whew). “I showed you the story. About this couple, Morrill and Karen Worcester, who own the Worcester Wreath Company?” I imprison my hands in my pants pockets and shrug, no comprendo. “Well, back in 1992 their Company had a surplus of wreaths approaching the end of the Holiday Season. Rather than a problem, Morrill saw an opportunity to honor our country’s Veterans. So the Worcester’s neighbors and friends teamed up with VFW Posts and American Legion to help build the hand-tied red bow wreaths. The Blue Bird trucking company and their drivers, calling themselves the ‘Honor Fleet’, promised to transport the thousands of wreaths. And 21 veteran motorcyclists, the ‘Rolling Ambassadors,’ escorted this Caravan of Respect all the way to Arlington National Cemetery.”
I’m gobsmacked. “You’ve got all this stuff in your head?” “There’s more: Maine Senator Olympia Snowe helped Morrill make arrangements with Arlington for the wreaths to be placed on the older sections of the cemetery which were receiving fewer visitors. And then on Dec. 15, 1992 the Worcester family, their friends, the “Honor Fleet” and the “Rolling Ambassadors” conducted the wreath-laying which included a special ceremony with the Sentinels to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Quite a story, huh?”
I catch my breath and ask, “The email says they are looking to lay wreaths at ALL the graves; that’s over a quarter million. They still doing all this from Harrington, Maine?” She’s got the answer to this too. “Well, from 1992 to 2005 this was mostly a Maine community effort. The number of wreaths, trucks, truckers, and Maine volunteers all grew. But nothing like what happened in 2005 when a Wreath Volunteer posted this photo on line.
“Remember our fallen Heroes. Honor those who Serve. Teach a child the meaning of Freedom.”
Needless to say it went viral. And the Worcester’s were overwhelmed with inquiries from citizens and Veterans Organizations from every state in the Union wanting to participate, not just at Arlington but for their home state military cemeteries as well. And today every State in the Union honors the practice, and this year Wreath Volunteers will lay wreaths at The Normandy American Cemetery! Why don’t you write a column about it? I’ve given you all the info, so it will probably write itself.”
It didn’t…I had to write the artsy-fartsy stuff.
“Wreaths Across America” has a first rate website which tells their story, and how we can become involved; from sponsoring a wreath, to joining thousands of our fellow citizens on December 15, 2018. On this one day an Army of Volunteers from across America will “Remember our fallen Heroes” and lay a wreath on every Veteran’s graves at Arlington. And at 1,400 locations across America and here in Milledgeville, the Georgia Veterans Memorial Cemetery will be covering their 2,800 Veteran’s graves.
Hey, I’m pretty sure there are worse ways to spend your money. A wreath with a hand-tied red bow can be sponsored by you for $15. You can even hand deliver and place it on a Veteran’s tombstone if you like.
Buy two, one for each arm.