"Men like my father cannot die. They are with me still -- real in memory as they were in flesh, loving and beloved forever. How green was my valley then" ~ How Green Was My Valley, 1941.
ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY
WREATHS ACROSS AMERICA
Readers may be interested to know that these wreaths -- some 5,000 -- are donated by the Worcester Wreath Co. of Harrington, Maine. The owner, Merrill Worcester, not only provides the wreaths, but covers the trucking expense as well. He's done this since 1992. A wonderful guy. Also, most years, groups of Maine school kids combine an educational trip to DC with this event to help out. Making this even more remarkable is the fact that Harrington is in one the poorest parts of the state.
ARLINGTON, Virginia - What is now a yearly tradition in which Mainers leave thousands of Christmas wreaths on the cold, hard headstones of Arlington National Cemetery might never have come to pass if it weren't for a young boy's paper route.
Back when Merrill Worcester was 12 and a paperboy for the Bangor Daily News, he learned the paper was awarding a trip to Washington, D.C., to carriers who signed up the most new subscribers. He was determined to win and, eventually, he did. During that trip to the nation's capital, Worcester made an emotional connection with the military resting place. "It just stuck with me," he said. "This is a national shrine."
Thirty years later, when Worcester, owner of the Worcester Wreath Co. in Harrington, had more than 4,500 extra Christmas wreaths, he decided to donate them to the cemetery that began 135 years ago as a burial ground for Civil War casualties but now includes casualties from every military conflict. Since that first winter in 1992, the annual wreath-laying event has grown from about 10 people participating to 200, said Worcester, and it now takes a fraction of the time to lay the 4,500 wreaths that are donated by his company.
"It's just a thing that we do and we always will, as long as we can," Worcester said.
The annual event is organized by the Maine State Society in Washington, D.C., but friends of society members, local veterans and Maine congressional delegation staffers also help lay the wreaths. The society adorns a different section of the cemetery each year and on Monday decorated an area that included people killed in recent action in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"People often ask you, 'Well, do you just put them on the Maine soldiers' [graves]?' Absolutely not. We don't care who they are or where they're from," said Wayne Hanson, the society's president, who originally hails from Bangor, Maine.
Courtesy of the Bangor Daily News
TODD MORRISON, SPECIAL TO THE NEWS