The BLOG: Lifestyle
Wreaths across America
Diane Kilgore | December 9, 2016
A little more than fifty years ago an ambitious twelve year old boy, Morrill Worcester, won a trip to Washington D.C by selling the most editions of his hometown paper, The Bangor Daily News. While visiting Arlington National Cemetery the paper-router was instilled with respect for National service and sacrifice.
Three decades after that inspirational trip the Down-East’r seized an opportunity in 1992 to honor Veterans when his Worcester Wreath Company of Harrington, Maine had an unexpected surplus of 5,000 fresh balsam wreaths. In the spirit of Christmas Morrill with help from local truckers, and volunteers from the VFW and American Legion coordinated an effort with Members of the Maine State Society of Washington, D.C. to ship those heavenly scented, red-bowed remembrances to Arlington National Cemetery.
At a seldom visited section of the Cemetery, Morrill and his wife Karen with friends and neighbors of Columbia Falls, Maine began placing wreaths on headstones in honor of forgotten Veterans then saying their name in thanks. Symbolically the wreaths circular shape represents eternity in that there is no beginning and no end. Their evergreen essence and appearance of vitality throughout winter is a reminder of life’s continuity. As the years passed the tradition quietly grew.
The tribute had gone largely unnoticed until a dramatic photo of snow covered, adorned head stones from Arlington went viral in 2005. A ground swell of appreciation for the seasonal-honor increased donations to the cause. Interest in emulating the eulogium spread beyond Virginia to other sites.
The noble gesture now known as Wreaths Across America has swept the Nation to all 50 States at Sea and abroad. Amber Caron, spokesperson for the non-profit, said the custom of laying wreaths on graves in tribute to a Veteran has become a Christmas custom for many. The tradition that began in Arlington is a tangible and spiritual sign of connection between all Service men, women, their families and our Nation.
Caron said the Worcesters and others feel to say a Veteran’s name as a wreath is laid on their grave “is a small act that goes a long way towards keeping their memory alive.” They believe a Serviceperson dies twice; once when they take their final breath and later, the last time their name is spoken.
This year, wreath-laying observances are expected at 1,200 cemeteries around the world. Simultaneously honoring the United States Marines Corp,the United States Navy, the United States Coast Guard, the United States Army, the United States Air Force as well as POW’s and MIA’s, more than 1.2 million wreaths will be laid on the graves of the fallen or clustered in a group of seven in remembrance of all who served.
Saturday, December 10th, Morrill and Karen Worcester with current National President of American Gold Star Mothers, Candy Martin, will begin a week long escort of a convoy with ten tractor-trailers carrying hand-made, red ribboned wreaths to the final resting place of Veterans at Arlington National Cemetery. From Quoddy Head State Park in Maine to Washington D.C. on-lookers are welcome to experience the mission of Wreaths Across America as participants make stops en-route at schools, fairgrounds, fire-stations, the Pentagon and many Monuments. ( link details below)
Saturday, December 17th, the convoy will arrive at the gates of Arlington National Cemetery at 8:15 A.M. Opening ceremonies will be followed by wreath-laying commemorations at President Taft’s Monument at 10:30, President Kennedy’s Memorial at 11:00, the USS Maine Monument at 11:30, and the Tomb of the Unknown solider at 12:00 P.M. Observances of the tradition will differ by location around the world, however each ceremony is conducted in a manner designed to be moving, very special and free of charge. Karen Worcester, Executive Director of Wreaths Across America believes these seasonal tributes to veterans are not to “decorate graves’, ‘ not to remember their deaths,’but their lives.”
The legacy of respect felt by her husband as a young paper boy now grows in a Columbia Falls tree farm owned by the family. There in a protected reserve ‘The Veterans Remembrance Tree Program’ offers customized messages on dog-tags to hang in trees as a living memorial for more than 1,000 Gold Star families. Amber Caron said as trees are tagged generations of family members feel connected to their loved one’s growing memory in enduring ways. For some she believes the trees offer far more comfort than traditional grave sites.
Wreaths Across America is coordinated volunteer service open to all, working twelve months a year with the tri-fold mission to Remember our fallen U.S. veterans, Honor those who serve and Teach our children the value of freedom.
For general information:
To see the caravan appearance schedule :
For specific grave site information by City, Zip Code, Location, or Group see:
For Remembrance Tree program information call :
1 877 385 9504
or contact the non-profit organization at:
Wreaths Across America
P.O. Box 249
Columbia Falls, ME. 04623