Remember, Honor and Teach by Lois Bolin, Ph.D. Old Naples Historian

The Legacy of Wreaths Across America Continues

In 2005, an annual tribute went on quietly for several years until a photo from Arlington National Cemetery, adorned with wreaths and snow, circulated around the internet. And just like that, a loving tradition was born.

And so, it begins. Once upon a time, a 12 year old paperboy, Morrill Worcester, won a contest earning him a trip to his nation’s capital. As impressed as he was with this city on the “hill”, its luster could not compare to this beacon of love, light and reverence around Arlington National Cemetery. It was in that moment that a most profound impression was embedded upon his heart.

In 1992, when Worcester Wreath Company realized they had a surplus of holiday wreaths, Morrill’s heart light was triggered, and he decided to travel back to Arlington National Cemetery and lay these extra wreaths on the graves of our fallen soldiers. Enlisting Maine’s U.S. Senator, Olympia Snowe and others for help, he eventually placed 5,000 wreaths in the national cemetery to honors our nation’s heroes. This launched the family’s holiday tradition, which went unnoticed for almost 13 years. That all changed in 2005 when the now famous viral photo launched this private annual family tradition into a new direction.

Too big to control
Two years later, as requests continue to mount and money poured in – monies they could not ethically handle – the family knew if they were to keep their holiday tradition alive, they needed a bigger vessel. That vessel was “Wreaths Across America”. The magical blending of a 12 year old’s heart and a man’s organizational development skills ensured the mission to Remember, Honor, and Teach would live on forever.

SWFL WAA
Wreaths all across America are laid at 9 am with their ceremonies to follow at Noon. Whether it’s donating a wreath or two, helping to lay the wreaths, or attending the ceremony at Noon, please contact these organizations via phone or wreathsacrossamerica.org to see how you can best be of service:

Palm Royale Cemetery (FLPRCN)
Wreath placements are by Naples Cadet Squadron SER-FL-373, and Naples Senior Squadron FL023 Civil Air Patrol. Contact Capt. Judith Schiff at 239-293-8300 for more information. (Ceremony at Freedom Memorial Park at Noon.)

Marco Island DAR Chapter 3093FL (FL0663)
Congrats to Marco Island on their 2nd WAA. Marco Island Cemetery located at 489 W Elkham Cir., MI 34145.

Lake Trafford Cemetery (FLLTMG)
The beautifully refurbished cemetery is located at 1155 Little League Rd, Immokalee, FL 34142 and is sponsored in part by VFW Post 7721- Golden Gate Florida (FL0549). For more information, contact Commander Dr. JB Holmes at 239-455-7721.

Collier County Freedom Memorial
Our iconic memorial is located at 1515 Golden Gate Parkway, Naples, FL 34105. For more information, contact Jerry Sanford at 239-289-6952.

American Gold Star Mothers Southwest Florida Chapter (FL0427P)
It is no surprise to learn that our GSM have taken on yeoman’s work in getting WAA launched in Lee County at Lee County Cemeteries, 1589 Colonial Blvd., Fort Myers, FL 33907. If you have ever looked at WAA requirements, you’d understand. For more information on AGSM Southwest Florida Chapter, contact Beth at 239-271-0009.

During this Thanksgiving season, we are grateful for our families and living in the land of the free and home of the brave. We are especially thankful for the group who birthed these patriots who still believe in America – a group who has had the most profound impressions embedded upon their hearts, Gold Star Families. We are forever in your debt.     Lois Bolin

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