Maine Wreaths Go to Arlington Cemetery
So many requests for memory wreaths that on this day, wreaths from Maine are being placed at more than 200 veterans’ cemeteries across the country. And right here at Arlington, 800 people are lined up, each waiting to receive a single wreath to place against a stone: the media’s photo opportunity of the day.
But let me take you away from the crowd. The smell of balsam covers all of us; our hands are sticky with sap from holding the wreaths. Here is Nancy Cox from Virginia. She has come to Arlington for the past four Decembers. On a quiet knoll, she places her wreath and says to the stone, “Thank you very much. ”
“I say the names aloud,” she says. “I say to myself, ‘When is the last time someone said this soldier’s name out loud?'”
Here is Gabriel Roy, who served in Korea. He’s standing alone with tears in his eyes. “My brothers are here,” he says. “I’ll be here one day soon.” He places his wreath beside a small headstone. “Put them by the small stones,” he says. “They were the nobodies.”
I speak with Theresa Whitehead, who came on one of three buses from North Carolina. “That man must get a lot back,” she says of Morrill Worcester, “because he gives so much. I think now we have to say thank you to him.”
I meet a man whose son died in Bosnia, and a Connecticut man who hasn’t heard from his son, a soldier stationed in Iraq, for more than a month. They’re all here, each one finding a headstone, placing a wreath, each marker saying, “In memory of … In memory of …” And for a few moments on a day in December, the words come alive.
The wreaths go from truck to stones in an hour. Morrill Worcester never sought a platform, but it found him. This year, on December 15, two trucks will bring 10,000 wreaths to Arlington. Thousands of people will line the route from Maine to Virginia to see them pass. The wreath laying will be on a Saturday, when the schools are closed. Morrill Worcester expects “5,000 people, maybe more. Who knows how many?”
Wreaths will be placed again at U.S. military cemeteries around the world. Navy ships will drop wreaths into the sea. They will flow like a river beyond sight, and it matters not what my beliefs, or yours, may be about the war in which we are engaged today, or about the wars of the past, or wars ahead. For this day is about an idea that began on a tree farm in Maine, a gift that says simply to the dead: We remember.
For details on the 2009 wreath laying: wreathsacrossamerica.org