Wreaths Across America stops at Kent Island
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.
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.
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.