“Wreaths Across America” Ceremony Held In Baileyville

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By Gwen Clark

The 22nd Annual Laying of the Wreaths in conjunction with the Wreaths Across America Program was held on Saturday December 14th, 2013.  It is always held on the second Saturday in December as part of the overall ceremonies held nationwide, Naval Ships who participate in placing  wreaths into the seas and now on some foreign soils as well.  Watches are synchronized  and exactly at 12 noon Eastern Standard Time in all ceremonies church bells are tolled and a moment of silence is shared to remember the fallen, the prisoners of War, the Missing in Action and to honor those who have served and are serving this great Nations Armed Services.  The ceremony began at 11:30 AM at the Peoples Methodist Church, John Gallant gave the welcome and the opening prayer, Woodland Elementary First Grader Rylynn Clark led the group in the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag.  The National Athem was led by Lori Croman.  The Lords Prayer was recited by the group as well.

Judy Murray  gave a some history surrounding the Wreaths Across America program which came about when Morrell Worcester, then twelve years old.had won a trip to Washington D C and at that point that he began developing an idea that he wanted to do something  for the American Service men and women and all Americans.  The monies that are contributed to purchase the wreaths for the program are given to various places around the nation with the Remember, Honor and Teach purpose behind the funds.  One of the stops this year in the delivery of the wreaths was at Newtown, CT where $7,000 was donated to the school.   This was also the first time that a seven foot wreath was placed at the Statue of Liberty.   Each year Morrill and Karen Worcester make the trip.    Judy’s husband Dennis, who has since passed away;  along with Wayne Merritt were participants in the Civil Air Patrol and established one in Bailyville and the Civil Air Patrol became part of the Wreaths across America program in placing the wreaths on each site .   The Baileyville Ceremony is for all nearby communities to participate in each year.  It has become a tradition as part of the Nation Wide Ceremonies.  

Carl Ripley, a Woodland High School teacher, presented the rest of the ceremony and Judy will retire this year as Carl will continue the tradition.  He introduced the guest speaker Dylan Harris who had lost a brother in the service.  He spoke of the commitment that his family has given to honor his brother’s memory by taking part each year in the Wreaths Across America program, donating time, travel, wreath transportation , and active roles in the program.  Dylan placed the first wreath in memory of the United States Army, Gwen Clark placed the second wreath in memory of the United States Navy,  John and Jo Gallant placed the third wreath in memory of the United States Marines,  The fourth wreath was placed by Joe Benedetto in memory of the United States Air Force.  The fifth wreath was placed by Susan Merritt in memory of the United States Coast Guard, Joe Benedetto also placed the sixth wreath in memory of the  United States Merchant Marines.  The seventh wreath was in memory of the 93,852 United States service men from all branches whose last known status was either Prisoners of War or Missing in Action was placed by Pastor Randy.

An added wreath will be placed beginning this year as well in memory of the Home Guards.  This unit was formed in Augusta, Maine and was made up of those who were either over the age requirements or some other related reason that prevented them from serving.  L.C. Elliott R. Miles founded the first unit in Calais, Maine.  It became the most active  and largest unit in the State of Maine.  L. C. Miles formed this unit because he graduated from college and was a few days over the age limit for the Army.  This was just one day after Pearl Harbor.  He remained Commander until his retirement.  The Home Guard later became the State Guard and is now known as the National Guard.  L.C. Miles has earned the privilege of being honored as a special patriot in this local area.

Carl Ripley shared the history of how Taps came to be and the playing of Taps followed.   

Jo Gallant shared:  “The wreaths before you represent our commitment as a United America to remember the fallen. We also want these Christmas wreaths to symbolize out thanks to those who have served and are serving in the Armed Forces of our Great Nation and to their families who endure sacrifices every day on our behalf.  To our children, we want you to understand freedoms that you enjoy today haven’t been free but have come at a cost that some day you may have to pay yourself.  As a Nation standing together, we can defeat terrorism, hatred and injustice.  Thanks to our Veterans we can do just that . . .Thank you veterans and to those still serving . . .God bless you and God bless the USA.”     The ceremony closed with a prayer by Pastor Randy and the singing of God Bless America.     Due to the impending storm over the weekend it was decided to wait until Wednesday December 18th at 3 PM to physically  place the wreaths at the Memorial Park on Main Street in Baileyville.  A brief note that this is the only memorial that recognizes Agent Orange Veterans.    Everyone is invited to attend.