The communities of Folsom and El Dorado Hills came out in large Saturday to participate in the National Wreaths Across America Day in which remembrance wreaths are laid on the grave sites of Veterans at more than 3,700 cemeteries across the nation. It’s all part of the effort put forth by Wreaths Across America and those in and around Folsom were excited to participate this year. 

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Saturday’s wreath laying event took place at two different Folsom area cemeteries, Lakeside Memorial Lawn in the heart of Historic Folsom on Forrest Street and the Mormon Island Relocation Cemetery at 2547 Shadowfax Lane in El Dorado Hills.

The morning started off at 9:00 a.m. sharp as the Charlotte Parkhurst Chapter of the National Daughters of the American Revolution (NSDR), teamed up with the Folsom Veterans of Foreign Wars Hall to hold a special well attended ceremony on the lawn of the hall.  One hour later, activity moved to Lakeside Cemetery just up the road. 

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Boxed packed with wreath were unloaded from a trailer in the parking area of Lakeside. From there, the army of volunteers of all ages grabbed numerous wreaths and trekked to the lawn, which was dotted with hundreds of white crosses marking the graves of local fallen vets. There were single adult volunteers that came out to help, families, teens, members of Folsom City Council and many Veterans themselves who participated. 

Once they located the grave of a fallen vet, each volunteer placed one of the sponsored wreaths on or near the headstone. That volunteer then said the fallen hero’s name out loud in honor of their service. Many of the vets who participated, took the extra effort to salute their fallen brothers and sisters after saying their name. 

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As of Saturday, Wreaths Across America had reported that a total of 1,107 wreaths had been sponsored for the Lakeside ceremony thus far. The number exceeded the original goal by an impressive 317 wreaths. Due to the overwhelming willingness to participate this year, the army of volunteers had completed the honorable task in just over 15 minutes.  

Later in the day, volunteers assembled a few miles up the road at the Mormon Island Relocation Cemetery near the Sacramento-El Dorado County line, to honor the fallen who are laid to rest in this historical location.  As of Saturday, Wreaths Across of America reported 446 wreaths had been sponsored in the name of this location, which was 46 wreaths beyond the organizations original goal.

If you would like to volunteer to participate in the wreath laying ceremonies, you can find all of the information to sign up at wreathsacrossamerica.org, each different site has its own page throughout the site. Once you reach the site of interest, simply click the “Volunteer” button next to the cemetery name, you can even click an “Invite” button to invite your friends and family to join you. 

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“This something so special to be part of and it’s just a small amount of time to give out of our day to pay respect to those who gave so much to our country,” said Emily Hendrickson of Orangevale. “This is the second year I have volunteered after learning about it from friend last year and I plan to do it every year if I can.”

Those that can’t volunteer to distribute wreaths often sponsor wreaths in their communities, something individuals and businesses alike can do all year long by visiting the Wreaths Across America website. Wreath sponsorships start at $17 for individual wreaths, $34 for two wreaths, $85 for five and $170 for ten and so on. 

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Wreaths Across America was established in 2007 by wreath producer Morrill Worcester, assisted by veterans and truckers. Its primary activity is distributing veteran’s wreaths for placement on graves in military cemeteries. 

In December 2008, the United States Senate agreed to a resolution that designated Dec. 13, 2008, as Wreaths Across America Day. Subsequent National Wreaths Across America Days have been designated on the second or third Saturday of December.

Folsom Times photos by Bill Sullivan

See full size downloadable photos by visiting the www.sullivanimages.net gallery here

Wreaths Across America’s early beginnings

Morrill Worcester, owner of Worcester Wreath Company of Harrington, Maine, was a 12-year old paper boy when he won a trip to Washington D.C. It was his first to our nation’s capital and one that would change the trajectory of his life and the lives of millions of others across the country. Seeing the hundreds of thousands of graves and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery made an especially indelible impression on him. 

It was to be an experience that would follow him throughout his life and successful career, reminding him that his good fortune was due, in large part, to the values of his nation and the veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

In 1992, Worcester Wreath found themselves with a surplus of wreaths nearing the end of the holiday season. Remembering his boyhood experience at Arlington, Worcester realized he had an opportunity to honor our country’s veterans. With the aid of Maine Senator Olympia Snowe (ret), arrangements were made for the surplus wreaths to be placed at Arlington in one of the older cemetery sections that had been receiving fewer visitors each passing year.

As plans were underway to transport the wreaths to Washington, a number of other individuals and organizations stepped up to help. James Prout, owner of local trucking company Blue Bird Ranch, Inc., generously provided transportation all the way to Virginia. Volunteers from the local American Legion and VFW Posts gathered with members of the community to decorate each wreath with traditional red, hand-tied bows. 

Members of the Maine State Society of Washington D.C., helped to organize the wreath-laying, which included a special ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

For over a decade, this annual tribute went on quietly and privately. Everything changed in 2005, when a photo of the stones at Arlington, adorned with wreaths and covered in snow, circulated around the internet. Suddenly, the homespun tribute from a small town in down east Maine was receiving national attention. Thousands of requests poured in from all over the country from people wanting to help purchase and lay wreaths at Arlington. Thousands more wanted to emulate the Arlington project at their local National and State cemeteries. Still others simply desired to share their stories and thank Morrill Worcester for honoring our nation’s heroes. Many were surviving family members of some of those heroes.

Unable to donate thousands of wreaths to each state, Worcester began sending seven wreaths to every state: One for each branch of the military and an additional wreath to pray tribute to POW/MIAs. In 2006, with the help of the Civil Air Patrol and other civic organizations, simultaneous wreath-laying ceremonies were held at over 150 locations around the country. The Patriot Guard Riders volunteered as escorts for the wreaths going to Arlington in the beginnings of the annual “Veterans Honor Parade,” a convoy that now travels the east coast every year in early December.

The annual trip to Arlington and the groups of volunteers eager to participate in Worcester’s simple wreath-laying event grew each year until it became clear that the desire to remember and honor our country’s fallen heroes was bigger than he could have imagined possible at the outset. The movement had grown beyond Arlington and bigger than this one company in Harrington, Maine.

In 2007, the Worcester family, along with the support of veterans organizations and a variety of other groups and individuals who had helped with their annual veterans wreath ceremony in Arlington, formed Wreaths Across America, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, to continue and expand this effort, and support others around the country who wanted to do the same. The simple mission of the organization was established: Remember. Honor. Teach.

Just one year later, over 300 locations held wreath-laying ceremonies in every state, Puerto Rico and 24 overseas cemeteries. Over 100,000 wreaths were placed on veterans’ graves. Over 60,000 volunteers participated. And that year, December 13, 2008 was unanimously voted by the United States Congress as “Wreaths Across America Day.”

In 2014, a goal of placing a veteran’s wreath on every grave marker was met with the sponsorship and placement of 226,525 wreaths.

In 2018, a delegation of volunteers and supporters were invited by the American Battle Monuments Commission to hold a wreath ceremony to honor the nearly 10,000 heroes interred at Normandy American Cemetery in France.

In 2022, Wreaths Across America and its national network of volunteers placed more than 2.7 million sponsored veterans’ wreaths on headstones of our nation’s service members at 3,702 participating locations. This was accomplished with the support of more than 5,000 sponsorship groups, corporation contributions, and in-kind donations from the transportation industry across the country.

The wreath-laying that began more than 30 years ago is still held annually, on the second or third Saturday of December. WAA’s annual pilgrimage from Harrington, Maine to Arlington National Cemetery has become known as “the world’s largest veterans’ parade.” Every year the convoy of trucks, local law enforcement, staff and supporters stop at schools, monuments, veterans’ homes and communities along the way to talk about the Wreaths Across America mission and remind people how important it is to remember, honor and teach.

Wreaths Across America is committed to teaching all generations about the value of their freedoms, and the importance of honoring those who sacrificed so much to protect those freedoms. In 2022, the organization launched its expanded TEACH program and collaboration with like-minded organizations focused on character development and service projects for young people of all ages, with lesson plans for all grade levels and learning abilities.

Wreaths Across America would not be successful without the help of volunteers, active organizations and the generosity of the trucking industry, which offer invaluable support to WAA’s mission to remember the men and women who served our country, honor our military and their families, and teach our children about our freedom and those who protect it. There are many ways you can help—learn more about how you can get involved by perusing our site, signing up to receive our newsletter and/or visiting the Wreaths Across America Museum in Columbia Falls, Maine. (About Wreaths of America provided by WreathsAcrossAmerica.com)

Bill Sullivan
Author: Bill Sullivan