Local Civil Air Patrol Honors Veterans Through Wreaths Across America Program
CLARION CO., Pa. (EYT) – The Clarion Civil Air Patrol has partnered with Wreaths Across America by becoming a local fundraising group, assisting in the sales of wreaths to be placed on veterans’ graves at Arlington National Cemetery during December.
(Pictured: Clarion Civil Air Patrol cadets at Arlington National Cemetary)
In 1992, the Wreaths Across America program began by chance when the Worcester Wreath Company of Harrington, Maine, had a surplus of wreaths near the end of the holiday season. The company owner, Morrill Worcester, thought back on a moving childhood experience he’d had at Arlington National Cemetery and decided to honor the nation’s veterans by having the wreaths placed at Arlington.
The plan slowly came together as individuals and organizations stepped up to help. The owner of a local trucking company offered to provide transportation to Virginia, while volunteers from the local American Legion, the local VFW Posts, and the general local community decorated the wreaths with classic red, hand-tied bows. The wreath-laying itself, including a special ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, was organized by members of the Maine State Society of Washington, D.C.
After that first year, Worcester and the volunteers made the wreath-laying an annual event, which went on for over a decade before suddenly being thrown into the limelight.
In 2005, a photo of the stones at Arlington, adorned with the now-familiar red bow decked wreaths and dusted with snow, began to circulate around the internet. The photo quickly went viral, creating national attention for the once-small project. Suddenly, Worcester was receiving thousands of requests from across the country from people wanting to help with Arlington or people wanting to create similar projects at their own National and State cemeteries.
Knowing he couldn’t possibly donate enough wreaths to fill all of the requests, Worcester began providing seven wreaths to every state, one for each branch of the military, and for POW/MIAs.
In 2006, the Civil Air Patrol got involved by working with Worcester and several other civic organizations to help organize simultaneous wreath-laying ceremonies at more than 150 locations across the nation. That same year, the Patriot Guard Riders volunteered to escort the wreaths being taken to Arlington, which began the annual “Veterans Honor Parade” that still travels the east coast in early December each year.
The official Wreaths Across America non-profit 501-(c)(3) organization was formed in 2007 with the mission to Remember, Honor, and Teach.
The program continued to grow each year, and by 2014, Wreaths Across America met their goal of covering all of Arlington National Cemetery with the placement of 226,525 wreaths, while also laying over 700,000 memorial wreaths at 1,000 locations in the United States and beyond.
The wreath-laying is still held annually, on a Saturday in December. This year it is being held on December 15th.
The Clarion Civil Air Patrol is one of many organizations who sell sponsorship of wreaths for the program. They have been involved in the project for the last five years and even traveled to the wreath-laying at Arlington in 2016.
The wreaths that are sponsored through the Clarion Civil Air Patrol can be in honor or in memory of a living or deceased veteran, spouse, or first responder. The cost is $15.
The Wreaths Across America program partners with many of the organizations that sell sponsorship of the wreaths by making the sale a fundraising opportunity for the organizations, as well. For each wreath the Clarion Civil Air Patrol sells, they receive $5.00 to be used toward their cadet programs which teach the cadets leadership, aerospace, physical fitness, emergency services, and character development.
Clarion Civil Air Patrol is also hoping to be able to go back to Arlington for the wreath-laying again in the future, possibly next year.
“The parents and cadets who went had an amazing trip the last time,” said Dawn R. Miller, Clarion Civil Air Patrol Deputy Commander for Cadets.
“They said it was a really moving experience.”
Those who wish to sponsor a wreath through the Clarion Civil Air Patrol can do so by visiting the Clarion Civil Air Patrol website and clicking on the “Honor Vets” option at the top of the page, or by going directly to the donation page.
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