Wreaths Across America in Washingtonville
By Eugenia Moskowitz
On a very cold Dec. 16, veterans, the public, and members of the Washingtonville High School JROTC laid 88 wreaths on the gravestones of veterans at the snow-covered Washingtonville Cemetery. Organized by Linda Standish as Washingtonville’s first participation in this national movement, members of the First Presbyterian Church and the general public began the event at 11:30 a.m. with a ceremony in front of the church on Goshen Avenue in the ceter of the village. After that, people marched into the cemetery behind the flag carried by the JROTC and, after a brief service at noon, fanned out and laid the wreaths on graves marked with orange sticks.
Each December on National Wreaths Across America Day, the organization’s mission to remember, honor, and teach is carried out by coordinating wreath-laying ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery and over 1,200 additional locations in all 50 states, at sea, and abroad. The event was started in 1992 when Morrill and Karen Worcester’s wreath company in Harrington, Maine, tried to figure out what to do with a surplus of 5,000 wreaths shortly before Christmas. He had them placed at Arlington quietly, in the older sections of the cemetery, every year since then with the help of James Prout, owner of Blue Bird Ranch trucking company. In 2005 the annual event gained media attention via a simple stunning photograph of a red-ribboned wreath lying at every stone in Arlington, and in 2007 a group of volunteers grew the movement to a nationwide level by founding Wreaths Across America. The veterans’ annual pilgrimage from Maine to Arlington is now the world’s largest veterans’ parade, stopping at schools, monuments, and veterans’ homes and communities along the way. To learn more, go to http://www.wreathsacrossamerica.org
CAPTION 1: Proud and mournful Americans both young and old laid ceremonial wreaths for all branches of military service. The public then spread out and laid all the wreaths at veterans’ graves at the cemetery, where they spoke each veteran’s name to remember not their deaths but their lives. (Photo by Eugenia Moskowitz)
CAPTION 2: Heads were bowed and words spoken prior to the Wreaths Across America wreath laying at Washingtonville Cemetery. (Photo by Eugenia Moskowitz)