At Wreaths Across America, we're often asked, "How do you honor over a million veterans and their families during the holidays?" Our answer is always, "It's our volunteers who drive the mission and build the organization."
The Wreaths Across America family of volunteers throughout the nation and overseas represent a grassroots effort fueled by patriotism and respect for those who have served our nation past and present. These volunteers work every year to express their gratitude by raising funds to sponsor fresh, hand-made balsam fir remembrance wreaths.
The power of the circular wreath with a single red bow unites people in a common cause to remember, honor, and teach.
Rebecca Turcotte is a member of the Patriot Riders of America, Chapter 3 located in Maine. The group's Facebook page describes their club's mission (in part). "Patriot Riders of America major functions are to help all American Veterans; people in our communities; encourage rider participation in events, and to promote motorcycle safety. We support the Constitution of the United States and the right to freedom." Membership is made up of veterans, non-veterans, women, men, and junior members as well. While the group consists of motorcycle enthusiasts, it's open to anyone "caged" as well.
"We have a dedicated group of compassionate people who come together to help military veterans," Rebecca explains. "If someone reaches out to us and says 'hey we need help getting a veteran's roof shingled' then we try to get it done. We're just a volunteer group that works from our hearts but we all have different skills, and we try to put them to use as a team. I'm very proud of this group and what we've been able to do to support veterans, and if we can't, we help them find an organization that can assist."
Some of the chapter's other efforts have been to build a ramp for a World War II veteran's home, and they support the Summit Project in Maine as well.
Rebecca's love and respect for the military come naturally through her families service and sacrifices. Her husband Jim served in the Air Force, her father, Harold Pitman, served in World War II and her brother, Gilbert Bell, Jr. served in the United States Army and was killed in Vietnam in 1968 when she was a young girl.
Rebecca and fellow members of the chapter recently visited the Wreaths Across America Museum and Headquarters in Columbia Falls, Maine. A tour of the tip land allowed them to visit the dedicated section of the Patriot Riders of America and the other monuments while placing replica dog tags for some of their fallen heroes as part of the Stem to Stone program.
"It was the most memorable thing for me, and I'll never forget that experience for the rest of my life. We didn't realize there was a museum and tree-tagging program, so we want to spread the awareness."
Rebecca shares some of the photos from their visit.
"We've always supported Wreaths Across America every December and have been there to place the wreaths," Becky proudly states. "We have donation cans out, and we place them in area businesses. One of our members, Stephanie Lizzotte, numbers the cans and keeps track of them every month and carefully logs the money and so forth."
The chapter raises money to cover veteran's headstones at cemeteries in Augusta, Maine. "We discovered there just aren't enough wreaths to cover all the veterans grave sites."
"I believe, and I know the group does too that we are one country. These men and women fought for us and in some instances laid down their lives for us. Everyone should ask themselves what can we do for their families. We all have family members who have served, and this is our way to show them love and respect."
The Countdown to Wreath Day 2017 is on, and we're sharing the stories of our volunteers like Rebecca and the Patriot Riders of America as they work tirelessly to remember, honor, and teach.
Terry says veterans make up about 18 percent of the Berkshire Hathaway company's workforce. Wreaths Across America gives them the opportunity to recognize veterans across the country but most importantly says Terry to honor their employees who served.
Wreaths Across America announced that its Executive Director Karen Worcester and Founder Morrill Worcester were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor Society’s Patriot Award, the highest award the Society can bestow to an individual.
I was a Navy spouse for 12 years and during that time we lost over two dozen of our closest friends. Most of whom are buried at Arlington National Cemetery and Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego.
Photo Contest Winners Announced
Wreaths Across America chose the 2018 Mid-America Trucking Show (MATS) in Louisville, KY, from March 22-24 to debut its newly designed Traveling Education Exhibit. This 48-foot display trailer hooked to its Chevy truck was loaded with many “hands on” technology and interactive information about the program to help visitors learn about the mission to Remember, Honor, and Teach.
Chairman of the Board of Directors, Wayne Hanson was honored to be one of the Wreaths Across America team accompanying the exhibit, where one of the more memorable things he had the pleasure of doing was to say two words to some of those present…”Welcome Home!”
As the only fully-integrated recycling provider in Central Texas, TDS joined in the effort to remember, honor and teach by donating their services.
All of the 30 Medal of Honor Recipients in attendance during the four days of events were glad to have a chance to meet Morrill and Karen.
The goal of the S.W.A.T. training is to create a core "support group" for location and fundraising volunteers with more experienced leaders joining the ranks every year.
"If you're an American, you're proud to do it. I know it's probably one of the best things I've done every year."
Mission Matters with Karen Worcester is a new program heard only on Wednesdays on Wreaths Across America Radio. Here's the schedule of the shows coming up and a link to the station.
Anyone who really knows me knows that I am often a walking Wreaths Across America billboard. They will normally see me sporting a WAA-branded sweatshirt or t-shirt, my blue and green WAA wristband and my ever-present WAA baseball cap. I’m proud of my connection with WAA and love to promote what we do and why we do it.
That being said, I want to relate a recent encounter I had while standing in line at our local Social Security Administration (SSA) Office the other day.
Air Force Veteran*, Wayne Merritt, currently manages the Veterans Transportation Program based out of Wreaths Across America Headquarters in Maine. Monday thru Friday, Wayne travels to area towns in the Downeast region to pick up veterans and bring them to their doctors’ appointments. This is just one of the many free programs Wreaths Across America offers to veterans and their families.
Military children worry about their parent’s safety very day. These children face many challenges, frequent moves and lengthy separation due to trainings and deployments. They take on more responsibilities and worry about their parent every day.
"I really don't see it stopping, and we want people to tell us where they see it. Take pictures and videos when you check it out and share them with us on social media."
Debbie says she and the transportation team are excited about new and more efficient systems that will be in place for 2018 and beyond.
To come up with an accurate wreath count for sponsorships, great effort was taken to assure no one was forgotten.
As we approached, Morrill and I began to realize that here laid the body of a very important veteran that we had apparently overlooked for the past 26 years in our annual wreath placement.
The many stops along the way at schools, veterans organizations, police and fire stations were also overflowing with love and good wishes.
I want my daughter to grow up understanding what true heroes are and the sacrifices that have been made for us to live in a free country.
Complete strangers just moments before, together, Denny and Ella read the name on her grandfather's headstone and talked some about him while laying his wreath.
"When she explained to us what Wreaths Across America is and does, it was a no-brainer for me that we would get involved."
On behalf of her father Rod, Cindi shared her grandfather's words with the audience during the memorial service. You can hear her presentation and see other highlights from the service in this video.
These two quiet and humble individuals are a team dedicated to giving back to their nation. They educate others by sharing their experiences and lessons of love and sacrifice not just from the war but the other "battlefields of life."
To better serve our volunteers in 2018 and beyond, we're reorganizing and providing more tools to support their inspiring efforts.
"I witnessed a few of the boys laying an "in honor of" wreath. They did it with reverence."
Guided by an infrangible faith when the supply of lifejackets ran out they gave up their own to save the lives of others.
"I went up to that hill and looked at all of those graves of my colleagues who have gone before me.
Volunteers planning to assist in removing wreaths are asked to attend a short briefing at the McClellan Gate at 8:30 a.m. and to follow these guidelines.
As witnessed through this video, the volunteer commitment of patriotic citizens is a year-round effort that culminates in a remarkable day of unity, friendship, and healing.
Some give the ultimate sacrifice of a loved one and are often left in sorrow to wonder if other citizens remember or appreciate what they gave up for liberty and justice for all.