Wreaths Across Amer­ica stops at Kent Is­land

Record Observer - - News - By DOUG BISHOP dbishop@kibay­times.com

STEVENSVILLE — The Kent Is­land Amer­i­can Le­gion, Post 278, un­der the lead­er­ship of for­mer Post Com­man­der Nikki Ran­dolph, hosted the Wreaths Across Amer­ica con­voy of trac­tor-trailer trucks as it reached its fi­nal leg of the jour­ney from Maine to Ar­ling­ton Na­tional Ceme­tery in North­ern Vir­ginia on Thurs­day evening, Dec. 15. The con­voy was haul­ing over 245,000 Christ­mas wreaths to be placed on the graves of those fallen he­roes who gave the last full mea­sure of de­vo­tion to the na­tion. This was the 7th con­sec­u­tive year the KI Le­gion has hosted the group of more than 170 pa­tri­ots bring­ing the Christ­mas wreath gifts of the sea­son.

The mes­sage of Wreaths Across Amer­ica: Re­mem­ber — those who served their na­tion; Honor — those who made the ul­ti­mate sac­ri­fice; and. Teach (es­pe­cially chil­dren) — about the cost of free­dom by those who died de­fend­ing it.

Wreaths Across Amer­ica founder Mor­rill Worces­ter was im­pressed with what he saw and learned when he vis­ited Ar­ling­ton Na­tional Ceme­tery on a trip to Wash­ing­ton, D.C., as a 12-year-old boy. Years later, as a wreath maker in Columbia Falls, Maine, he had a sur­plus of nearly 5,000 wreathes in 1992. He and his fam­ily trav­eled to Ar­ling­ton and laid the wreaths on the graves. They qui­etly did the same thing for many years. In 2005, a pho­tog­ra­pher snapped an im­age of wreaths and gen­er­ated a lot of in­ter­est on the in­ter­net. Mor­rill re­ceived over 6,000 emails in re­sponse to the pho­to­graph.

Wreaths Across Amer­ica has grown each year. In 2014, the goal of cov­er­ing ev­ery grave at Ar­ling­ton Na­tional Ceme­tery was reached.

On Thurs­day evening, the con­voy mem­bers were treated to a tra­di­tional, Christ­mas-style din­ner, con­trib­uted to by An­nie’s Para­mount Steak House, Love Point Deli, Bridges Restau­rant, Fish­er­man’s Inn, Har­ris Crab House, Big Bats and The Nar­rows Restau­rant.

On a pre­vi­ous visit, Wreaths Across Amer­ica Ex­ec­u­tive Direc­tor Karen Worces­ter (Mor­rill’s wife) said, “The KI Amer­i­can Le­gion knows what we need when we ar­rive — to re­lax be­fore we make that fi­nal step to Ar­ling­ton. And the food here is dif­fer­ent than an­other place we stop along the way.”

At nu­mer­ous lo­ca­tions, they are asked to par­tic­i­pate in cer­e­monies and are gen­er­ously served chicken or spaghetti din­ners or lunches.

Worch­ester said grate­fully, “At Kent Is­land, we’re only asked to re­lax and un­wind. That takes a lot of stress off of us. We’re just asked to be our­selves.”

She added, “Satur­day, 1.2 mil­lion wreathes will be placed at over 1,000 dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tions across the na­tion with one mil­lion vol­un­teers plac­ing them. Wreaths Across Amer­ica is for any place where veter­ans are buried.

“The wreathes are paid for by cor­po­rate and pri­vate do­na­tions; $15 pays the cost of one wreath.” Go on­line at wreath­sacrossamer­ica.org for in­for­ma­tion about con­tribut­ing.

Le­gion Wreaths Across Amer­ica Nikki Ran­dolph thanked all who joined the ef­fort to make this year’s event an­other suc­cess.

“This year, the Queen­stown and Centreville Amer­i­can Le­gions, along with the Kent Is­land Elks, com­bined re­sources to as­sist us. This has truly evolved into a com­mu­nity event,” Ran­dolph said. “It is un­prece­dented that they have come here each of the past seven years, as they vary their route to Ar­ling­ton ev­ery year in or­der to spread the word and ac­com­plish their mis­sion. It’s been our honor to host them each year.”

Many of the driv­ers spent the night at the Hol­i­day Inn Ex­press in Gra­sonville, where the Queen Anne’s County Cham­ber of Com­merce do­nated its por­tion of the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s hol­i­day mixer’s 50/50 raf­fle to Wreaths Across Amer­ica.

On Fri­day morn­ing, Dec. 16, a hot break­fast was pro­vided to all mem­bers of the con­voy at the Le­gion. And driv­ers picked up bag lunches packed Thurs­day evening by mem­bers of Cub Scout Pack 496, spon­sored by the KI Elks. The sand­wiches were made by the lo­cal Sub­way sand­wich shop.

At 9:15 a.m., Fri­day, with the tem­per­a­ture at 21 de­grees and feel­ing like 11, stu­dents from both Mat­a­peake Mid­dle and Mat­a­peake Ele­men­tary lined Route 8, en­thu­si­as­ti­cally hold­ing ban­ners, wav­ing Amer­i­can flags and cheer­ing “U.S.A., U.S.A.” as the truck­ers left the park­ing lot and headed to­ward the Bay Bridge.

Those in the trucks and con­voy au­to­mo­biles blew their horns and waved back with smiles.

Ran­dolph said she ac­com­plished her goal of “teach­ing the chil­dren to re­mem­ber and honor those who have served the na­tion.”

Wendy Her­shey con­trib­uted in­for­ma­tion to this ar­ti­cle.

PHOTO BY DOUG BISHOP

Hold­ing ban­ners and small Amer­i­can flags, school chil­dren from Mat­a­peake ele­men­tary and mid­dle schools wave as the huge con­voy of ve­hi­cles and trac­tor trail­ers car­ryng 245,000 Christ­mas wreaths leaves the Kent Is­land Amer­i­can Le­gion, Post 278, in Stevensville, Fri­day morn­ing, Dec. 16, bound for Ar­ling­ton Na­tional Ceme­tery.

Wreaths Across Amer­ica founder Mor­rill Worces­ter, left, and his wife Karen, who serves as ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor, cen­ter, visit with KI Amer­i­can Le­gion Wreaths Across Amer­ica Chair­man Nikki Ran­dolph Thurs­day evening, Dec.15. The Le­gion has hosted the Wreaths Across Amer­ica con­voy for seven con­sec­u­tive years.

PHO­TOS BY DOUG BISHOP

As the con­voy of cars and trucks leav­ing the KI Amer­i­can Le­gion, Post 278, in Stevensville, passed by along Route 18, hun­dreds of Mat­a­peake ele­men­tary and mid­dle school, stu­dents wav­ing Amer­i­can flags cheered “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!” Fri­day morn­ing, Dece. 16, as the an­nual Wreaths Across Amer­ica con­voy vis­ited Kent Is­land.

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