ANC Website Top BANNER 3

WREATH IN ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY - 2007
For the sixteenth year, the Worcester Wreath Company of Maine has
donated wreaths to be placed in Arlington National Cemetery.

What began 15 years ago as a fairly simple concept - a wreathmaker in Maine hauling extras to Arlington National Cemetery to lay them on headstones - swelled to its largest placement this weekend as more than 2,000 volunteers honored the graves of 10,000 veterans.

They placed most of the wreaths in Section 33, the final resting place for many older veterans. But it was a section of fresher graves nearby, where troops from Iraq and Afghanistan are buried, that was on the minds of many.

"When you walk to Section 60," said volunteer John Williams, whose son Jack, an infantryman, arrived in Baghdad a week ago, "you can't help but think of him."

Williams, 66, a Vietnam veteran, helps lead a nonprofit group that works with the Arlington Wreath Project. He traveled with a caravan that carried the wreaths from Maine, where the retired Coast Guard captain has also worked as a lobsterman and plumbing inspector.

At Arlington in Virginia Saturday, he met various people with remarkable stories, including Mary Lou Wade.

She had flown from Florida and picked up a wreath for her brother's headstone. Inside his coffin, there wasn't much more than a uniform and a tooth. For more than 30 years, the remains of her brother, who died in Vietnam, had not been found. Last year, after sifting through remains turned over to the United States years earlier, officials identified her brother's tooth, in part by linking it to a DNA sample she provided.

"He's home," she told Williams, hugging him and pointing to her brother's grave. "He's home."

Volunteers came from across the Washington area and as far away as California. As has become custom, cemetery officials designated a specific area for them to place the wreaths, this time Section 33. Volunteers could carry individual wreaths to other sections.

Morrill Worcester, president of Worcester Wreath, started the project in 1992. His company supplies wreaths that are sold by L.L. Bean each year. He has been fond of the cemetery since visiting it as a 12 year old when he won a trip to Washington as a Bangor Daily News paperboy.

As the Arlington Wreath Project's reputation has grown, so has the number of people eager to place wreaths on the graves of the men and women who lost their lives serving their county. Last year, the company brought 5,265 wreaths, which were distributed in 45 minutes.

Interest also has grown in the caravan that delivers the wreaths to Arlington. During the week-long trip from Maine, the caravan stopped at memorials and schools along the way, talking about the wreaths and the people they were remembering during the holidays.

At a memorial ceremony in Portland, Maine, Williams met the widow of Robert Porter. If she could tell him the location of his grave, Williams told her, "We'll see that he gets a wreath."

Williams thought of his own son during the journey. "He wanted to jump out of perfectly good airplanes," Williams said of his son, who is in the 10th Mountain Division and aims to join the Army's Special Forces.

He tries to take a pragmatic view of his son's tour in Iraq: It is what soldiers do, and the odds of him being killed, compared with the number of troops deployed, are at least mathematically low.

In Section 60, though, were stark reminders of what could happen. Row after row filled up with wreaths, simple green circles of balsam fir with rich red bows.

Taking it all in and leaning on crutches was Army Sgt. 1st Class Patrick King, whose left foot and ankle were blown off when a makeshift bomb exploded near his Humvee in Iraq on Oct. 20. Since then, he has been at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, rehabilitating and learning how to use his artificial leg.

"This is just outstanding," he said, looking at the people walking about with wreaths.

To his left, a long row of graves away, Pat Mackin sat alone near her son's grave, quietly sobbing. Navy Seal Mike McGreevy died on a rescue mission in Afghanistan two years ago. There was a wreath on his tombstone.

Suddenly, a contingent of more than three dozen schoolchildren, chaperons and a teacher arrived - from Maine. The teacher, Larry Ross, has made a point to teach his students about such veterans as McGreevy.

Before she left, Mackin and her son's widow placed a brownie atop his tombstone, as they always do. They then gave some brownies to the group that had come so far to meet them.

Christmas Wreath At Arlington National Cemetery December 15, 2007 - PHOTO
A United States Air Force ROTC honor guard (L) walks past one of the trucks loaded with a portion of the 10,000
holiday wreaths to be placed in Section 33 at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia December 12, 2007

Christmas Wreath At Arlington National Cemetery December 15, 2007 - PHOTOChristmas Wreath At Arlington National Cemetery December 15, 2007 - PHOTO

Christmas Wreath At Arlington National Cemetery December 15, 2007 - PHOTO
Volunteers carry some of the 10,000 holiday wreaths past grave sites in Section 33 at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia December 12, 2007.
In its 16th year, the Worchester Wreath Company of Harrington, Maine donates the balsam fir wreaths to honor those who have served in the U.S. military.

Christmas Wreath At Arlington National Cemetery December 15, 2007 - PHOTO
A United States Air Force ROTC honor guard place some of the 10,000 holiday wreaths on grave sites in Section 33 at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia December 12, 2007. In its 16th year, the Worchester Wreath Company of Harrington, Maine donates the balsam fir wreaths to honor those who have served in the U.S. Military.

Christmas Wreath At Arlington National Cemetery December 15, 2007 - PHOTO
Maine Civil Air Patrol cadet Andrew Babonis lays one of 10,000 holiday wreaths at a grave in Section 33 of Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia December 12, 2007.

Christmas Wreath At Arlington National Cemetery December 15, 2007 - PHOTO
A woman prays at a grave site after placing one of the 10,000 holiday wreaths to be put in Section 33 at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia December 12, 2007

Christmas Wreath At Arlington National Cemetery December 15, 2007 - PHOTO
A family walks among grave sites in Section 33 of Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, December 12, 2007,
during an event in which volunteers placed holiday wreaths on headstones.

Christmas Wreath At Arlington National Cemetery December 15, 2007 - PHOTO
Anne Weems of Calvert County, Maryland, looks for an empty grave site to place one of 10,000 holiday wreaths
to be put in Section 33 at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia December 12, 2007

Christmas Wreath At Arlington National Cemetery December 15, 2007 - PHOTO
World War II veteran Ken Spillman, of Reston Virginia, center, carries wreaths with his nephew, Bill Sands, of Arlington, Virginia,
and his daughter, Stacy Spillman, of New Albany, Ohio, right, to place at the headstones in Arlington National Cemetery

Christmas Wreath At Arlington National Cemetery December 15, 2007 - PHOTO
Penny Bradshaw, of Lake Forest, California., places a wreath at the headstone of Medal of Honor recipient
Hospitalman Francis C. Hammond in Arlington National Cemetery

Christmas Wreath At Arlington National Cemetery December 15, 2007 - PHOTO
Volunteers prepare to place wreaths on the headstones at Arlington National Cemetery

Christmas Wreath At Arlington National Cemetery December 15, 2007 - PHOTO
Katherine Black, 15, of Oakton, Virginia, carries a wreath to place at a headstone in Arlington National Cemetery

Christmas Wreath At Arlington National Cemetery December 15, 2007 - PHOTO
Detail photograph of a grave in Section 33 of Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia December 12, 2007,
during an event in which volunteers placed holiday wreaths on headstones.