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Wreaths across America comes to River Valley
RUMFORD -- The 37th Composite Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol of Rumford, commonly known as the Sundown Squadron, in conjunction with the Worcester Wreath Company of Harrington, is bringing the Wreaths Across America tradition to the River Valley.
Wreaths Across America, a non-profit 501c3 corporation, is a project that was started by Morrill Worcester and his family’s company, the Worcester Wreath Company. In 1992, the company based in Harrington, ME, found itself with a large excess of wreaths nearing the end of the holiday season.
Seeing an opportunity to make a boyhood dream that started when he was a paperboy for the Bangor Daily News become a reality, Worchester decided to do something special with those excess wreaths.
With the help of Maine Senator Olympia Snowe and the Maine State Society of DC, arrangements were made to transport those wreaths to Arlington National Cemetery and place them on the graves of the Veterans buried there.
Thus began the Arlington Wreath Project. Worcester recognized that his success as a businessman was in a large part because of the values of this Nation and the Veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country and he wanted to make sure that they would always be remembered.
It remained relatively obscure until a picture of the snow covered graves with the brightly colored Holiday Wreaths decorating them began to circulate across the internet. This created National attention.
Soon thousands of emails and letters began arriving at Worcester Wreath headquarters asking how this might be emulated across the country.
In 2006, in response to the thousands of requests received, Worcester Wreath expanded its wreath donations nationwide. Thus Wreaths Across America was born. With the help of the nation-wide Civil Air Patrol, ceremonies were held simultaneously at 230 locations. From the snow banks of Alaska to the sands of Iraq, our nation’s heroes were honored.
The Sundown Squadron has been a participant in the project for a long time, seeking sponsorships for wreaths to be sent to the Veteran’s Cemetery in Augusta. Even though squadron personnel had been to Augusta to participate in the wreath laying, there were no wreaths being sponsored for the local area.
The Squadron Commander, Capt. Joe Roberts, felt it should be “brought home.”
“We have literally thousands of veterans buried here in the River Valley that should be honored in this manner as well,” said Roberts, a Vietnam Veteran himself. “I felt why should we try to sell sponsorships for other veterans in other places of our state and nation when we have plenty right here locally.”
That determination led him and his staff of Senior Officers and Cadets to begin efforts to bring it to the River Valley. Enlisting the aid of the American Legion, VFW, the Cub Scouts and other volunteers, Roberts has developed plans to begin the Wreaths Across America tradition right here in the River Valley.
“Since our Squadron also has a Flight stationed at the Bethel Airport, one of my officers that lives in Bethel is leading in the efforts to do the same thing in the Bethel area. They will be laying wreaths and conducting a ceremony at the Riverside Cemetery on Airport Road at the same time that we will be having our ceremony and laying wreaths at the St. John’s Cemetery here in Rumford.”
In order to do this, sponsorships must be obtained for each wreath that is placed on the graves. Each wreath sponsorship costs $15. Sponsorships may also be purchased by calling Capt. Roberts at 357-3782.
“We will have a ceremony at the Veteran’s Memorial Park at the end of Congress Street on December 11th at noon,” Roberts said. “Seven ceremonial wreaths will be placed there.”
The local ceremony will coincide with almost 500 other ceremonies that will take place across the nation and at 24 offshore cemeteries, including Normandy Beach, on that day. Volunteers will then go to the St. John’s Cemetery on Isthmus Road to place the wreaths on the veterans’ graves.
There are approximately 1,200 veterans buried in this cemetery. If there are not enough wreaths to be placed on each veteran’s grave, the volunteers will select certain sections of the cemetery to receive the wreaths.
More information can be obtained or sponsorships purchased by calling Capt. Roberts, the location leader, at 357-3782.