"Wreaths Across America" coming to Bethel
The Wreaths Across America project, which got its inspiration from the annual laying of Christmas wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery, will honor Bethel veterans this year at the Riverside Cemetery.
Craig Davis of Bethel, a member of the Civil Air Patrol, is working with the American Legion to find individuals to sponsor a wreath or wreaths for $15 each. He hopes enough people will participate to place a wreath on the grave of each of the 191 veterans buried at Riverside.
The CAP has been involved in the project in previous years in Rumford.
“Now it’s coming to Bethel,” Davis said Tuesday. “When I heard about [the project], I jumped at it.”
To sponsor a wreath, donors may go to the Wreaths Across America website at www.wreathsacrossamerica.org.
If individuals wish to honor a particular veteran, he said, they may contact him at (207) 330-5795. Otherwise, the graves will be chosen by volunteers.
All the wreaths will be placed in a noontime ceremony on Dec. 11, to coincide with the Arlington Wreath Project ceremony in Virginia.
History of Arlington project
Wreaths Across American was formed as an extension of the Arlington Wreath Project.
The Arlington project was started by Maine businessman Morrill Worcester, owner of the Worcester Wreath Co. in Harrington. In 1992, he donated 5,000 Christmas wreaths to Arlington National Cemetery. With Worcester making the journey himself every year, the wreaths were trucked from Maine and laid on the graves.
The project became well known in 2005 through the Internet, according to the WAA website. The procession of trucks carrying wreaths to Arlington is now covered in the media each year. This year, between 50 and 300 vehicles are expected to participate.
As a result of the national attention beginning in 2005, many organizations from across the country decided to honor their local veterans in the same way, purchasing wreaths from the Worcester company.
This year, an estimated 450 locations will participate. Bethel will be the 14th in Maine.
Worcester Co. also donates seven wreaths, representing each branch of the U.S. Armed Services, to each location, to be placed on local war monuments.
Davis said the donated wreaths will likely be placed on the Civil War Monument on Main Street.
If donations to the Bethel project are not at a level to support wreaths for all the Riverside graves, Davis said, volunteers will likely choose one section to decorate this year.
At the other end of the spectrum, if more than 191 wreaths are funded, the others will be placed on veterans’ graves at other area cemeteries.
Davis hopes to continue the project in future years.
For those interested who do not have access to a computer, wreath order forms have been placed at area businesses and other locations around town.