Maine-made wreaths have begun the annual journey from Washington County down to near Washington, DC.

A project called Wreaths Across America kicked off a convoy from Maine to Virginia Sunday.  It's being led by Grand Marshal Candy Martin, the 2016 president of the American Gold Star Mothers. 

Wreaths Across America

Martin is leading 10 tractor-trailers carrying loads of eastern Maine balsam fir wreaths that will be placed at headstones in Arlington Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia. There are also scores of motorcycles, at least a half-dozen police cruisers and as many as twenty other vehicles.

The tradition began when Maine wreath maker Morrill Worcester, owner of Worcester Wreath Company in Harrington, donated 5,000 wreaths to Arlington Cemetery. This year, there will be more than 200,000 of them placed at Arlington alone. Tens of thousands more are going to be placed at veterans' cemeteries around the world.

Wreaths Across America

Merrill says Worcester Wreath is the only wreath company that manages its own forests to provide the freshest balsam in the industry.  Only part of each branch is harvested so that the branch can produce another tip for a future harvest. He says they cut no more than half that foliage in a single year so that the tree can remain vigorous.

The Wreaths Across America program started in 1992 as the Arlington Wreath Project and has grown tremendously. With wreath laying ceremonies at over 800 State, National and local cemeteries and monuments all across the United States and 24 Veteran Cemeteries overseas. Wreaths Across America's mission is to remember the fallen, honor those who serve; and teach the children the value of freedom. Remember, Honor, Teach are the three maxims of the program.

Wreaths Across America

Karen Worcester, Executive Director of Wreaths Across America, says they encourage every volunteer who places a wreath on a veteran's grave to say that veteran's name aloud and take a moment to thank them for their service to our country. She says it's a small act that goes a long way toward keeping the memory of our veterans alive.

"We are not here to decorate graves. We're here to remember not their deaths, but their lives."