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Wreaths adorn graves of local veterans as part of Wreaths Across America
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By Carol McIntire
Ceremonies in Grandview and Westview cemeteries in Carrollton were two of over 4,100 locations where live pine wreaths were placed on the graves of veterans as part of the Wreaths Across America program Dec. 16.
Emily Ayers and Kim Berry headed ceremonies and wreath placements at the two cemeteries, the first time such a ceremony has taken place in Carrollton. The sisters conducted research to locate the graves of all veterans in the two cemeteries, gathered donations for the purchase of wreaths and coordinated the placement of wreaths, over 125 in total.
Ayers quoted Ronald Reagan, the 40th president of the United States, saying to the crowd gathered at the cemetery, “Freedom is never more than a generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass this on to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will be spending our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was like to live in the United States where men were free.”
Wreaths Across America, founded in 2007 as a 501(c)3, strives to expand on its mission to REMEMBER the fallen, HONOR those who served and TEACH the next generation the value of Freedom.
The program was founded by Morrill Worcester, owner of Worcester Wreath Company of Harrington, ME, who was a 12-year-old paper boy when he won a trip to Washington, D.C. It was his first to the nation’s capital and one that would change the trajectory of his life and the lives of millions of others across the country. The hundreds of thousands of graves and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery made an especially indelible impression on him.
It was to be an experience that would follow him throughout his life and successful career, reminding him that his good fortune was due, in large part, to the values of his nation and the veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country, according to the non-profit’s website.
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. That year, the surplus wreaths were placed at Arlington in one of the older cemetery sections that had been receiving fewer visitors each passing year. For the next several years, seven wreaths, one for each branch of the military and an additional wreath for the POW/MIAs were sent to each state.
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. Today, a convoy travels the east coast every year in early December delivering wreaths to locations. On the third Saturday of the month a ceremony is held simultaneously at the locations and the wreaths are placed on graves.
At Carrollton, ceremonial wreaths were laid around the Veterans Memorial in Westview Cemtery to honor the Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force, Space Force, Coast Guard and Merchant Marines. A wreath was also laid in honor of the 92,129 United States servicemen whose last known status is either Prisoner of War or Missing in Action. Those participating in the ceremony included Fred Barnett, Marty Martin, Toby Davis, Leonard Hutson, Jack Rutledge, Rikki Dixon, Ty Foster, Rodger Barto and Boy Scout Troop 141 members Hayden Paul and Aaron Brown.
Several families who purchased wreaths personally placed them on the graves of their loved one. Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts and volunteers carefully placed the others, with the bow in the 12:00 position on graves throughout the cemetery.
The sisters said they plan to head up the program next year and look forward to an even larger response from the community.
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