Wreaths Across America

(Frank Chaffin) And we’re back again. It looks like we both got the same memo; we’re wearing our vests today. It’s not because we’re cold because the Dillon House is quite comfortable, it’s just that it’s wintertime now. (Deb Goodrich) You walk outside the Dillon House. Let me tell you, the High Plains of Western Kansas. I work with Jake at the Sale Barn in WaKeeney on Tuesdays because he can’t find any decent help so he’s got me. He bought me a pair of insulated coveralls. Nothing says love, Frank, like a pair of insulated coveralls, let me tell you. I will also tell you, some days that is not enough. It is, yes, winter on the High Plains, it’s not for sissies. It’s not for sissies. (Frank) I don’t know, you’re going to have to have somebody following you around with a camera because I just can’t imagine you tramping around on a farm in coveralls and work gloves and a floppy hat. (Deb) I don’t know why people have such a hard time picturing it, I grew up like that, barefoot and the whole nine yards. But, yes, it’s a challenge. Now speaking of WaKeeney, there’s something else at WaKeeney plays into this next story. The Veterans’ Cemetery, State Veterans’ Cemetery, and I think we did that in May, when we were featuring the veterans’ cemeteries, I think we featured the one in WaKeeney. I don’t know if we featured our other state cemeteries or not. We have three other state veterans’ cemeteries and some national cemeteries, but the Wreaths Across America. So if you have one of these cemeteries near you, now is the time, I think the wreaths, they’re still out there. Now is the time to go see this because it is so beautiful with those, just the simple greenery wreaths with the red ribbon on these veterans’ graves, it is beautiful. So this story is all about how this tradition began. WaKeeney and the other three state veterans cemeteries at Fort Dodge, Fort Riley, and Winfield, and our national cemeteries take part each year in the Wreaths Across America project. The effort began with Arlington National Cemetery and now serves hundreds of cemeteries throughout the world. The tradition began with a little boy’s visit to our first National Cemetery, Arlington. Morrill Worcester was only a 12-year-old paperboy when he won a trip to the nation’s capitol. The images of Arlington stayed with him. Years later, he was the owner of a successful business, Worcester Wreath, when he saw an opportunity in the surplus wreaths at the end of the holiday. He contacted Maine Senator Olympia Snowe and arranged to place wreaths in one of the older sections of Arlington, one not often visited. A number of other individuals and organizations stepped up to help and a tradition was born, a tradition not widely noticed until 2005 when a photograph of those snow-covered, wreath-laden graves was shared on the Internet. Others wanted to do the same. Worcester began sending 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. In 2007, the Worcester family, along with veterans, and other groups and individuals who had helped with their annual veterans wreath ceremony in Arlington, formed Wreaths Across America, to continue and expand this effort, and support other groups around the country who wanted to do the same. The mission of the group is simple: Remember. Honor. Teach. In 2014, Wreaths Across America and its national network of volunteers laid over 700,000 memorial wreaths at 1,000 locations in the United States and beyond, including ceremonies at the Pearl Harbor Memorial, as well as Bunker Hill, Valley Forge and the sites of the September 11 tragedies. This was accomplished with help from more than 2,000 fundraising groups, corporate contributions and donations of trucking, shipping, and thousands of helping hands. The organization’s goal of covering Arlington National Cemetery was met in 2014 with the placement of 226,525 wreaths. The wreath laying is held annually, on the second or third Saturday of December. WAA’s 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.

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