Remember, Honor, Teach

Remember, Honor, Teach – the mission of Wreaths Across America is carried out by veterans and their families all over America throughout the year, culminating in an escort event in December that travels from Maine to Arlington, Virginia. Gold Star parents Dolly and Jim Sullivan joined the 2018 escort for their ninth consecutive year, encountering many veterans along the way as they did so. (Submitted photos)

By Dorothy Sullivan and Cassie Oakes

Yes, that is the mission of Wreaths Across America [WAA]: Remember the fallen, honor those who serve and teach our children the value of freedom.  This past December was Alexander residents Dolly and Jim Sullivan’s ninth year taking part in the week-long journey of taking the Remembrance Wreaths to Arlington.  It is known as the “Longest Veterans’ Parade” but it truly is so much more.

Jim and Dolly left for Columbia Falls on Friday December 7, 2018 and went to the Wreaths Across America Headquarters to report in as Jim was driving one of the official WAA vehicles this year.  They were assigned to drive Becky Christmas, National President of American Gold Star Mothers and Grand Marshal of the Parade, and Gold Star Wife, Amy Perkins Moore.  Becky’s son and Amy’s husband were killed November 29, 2004, after returning from a deployment to Iraq, when the Black Hawk they were travelling in crashed due to inclement weather.  Jim and Dolly visited at the museum and then went to the Truckers Lounge where a crew from Tyson Foods had been cooking all week to feed the truckers whose trucks were there being loaded for the trip ahead.  They were remarkable cooks and they all enjoyed the food and catching up with old friends and meeting new ones.

Saturday morning was spent traveling to West Quoddy Lighthouse before dawn to place a wreath on the Memorial at daybreak.  It was cold but there was a warmth from within knowing they were remembering the Merchant Marines, Coast Guard and Navy for their service protecting our shores and transporting needed supplies.  Each year more locals come out to join them and it is amazing to see folks out in the cold waving flags as they go by.  At the International Bridge in Calais they have the Honoring Allies and Remembering Together [HART] Ceremony and the Gold Star Families of America present Remembrance Wreaths to the Silver Cross Families of Canada. A ceremonial wreath was also presented and they then walked across the International Bridge into St. Stephen and attended the wreath laying on their war memorial.  This year they were able to walk under the American and Canadian flags as both the Calais and St. Stephen Fire Departments were there to welcome them. The Border Patrol even had a Gold Star Banner hanging there for them. Before the journey began, they gathered at Balsam Valley Chapel for a service.  This service speaks of the mission and unites them in song and prayer.  Next there was an appreciation dinner for the truckers. Without the generosity of the trucking industry WAA could not transport Remembrance Wreaths to Arlington and 1,640 other locations in the United States where coordinators and volunteers place wreaths on veterans’ graves.

Sunday morning, Jim and Dolly along with many others gathered for breakfast at the Harrington School where they had a Kick Off Rally, the convoy formed up and the parade began.  If you think patriotism is dead in America you needed to be on Rte. 1 as the convoy traveled from Harrington to Bangor and beyond.  The amount of people standing out waving American flags cheering them on no matter the weather or even when they were an hour late removes any doubt from your mind.  There are so many wonderful stops along the way as they traveled Arlington.  They stop at schools where children learn songs to sing to our veterans. At some schools the children actually learned about local veterans and how they have served.

Friday morning Jim and Dolly along with so many others arrived at the Pentagon for a service and the placing of Remembrance Wreaths for each person who died there on 9/11.  It is a sobering moment to recall what happened that day and remember those who died there.  A number of family members traveled there to place a wreath for their loved one on the fence.  Next, they went to the Wall. A Remembrance Wreath was placed on each panel. Jim placed one on the panel that has his godparents’ son listed.  Dolly placed one on the panel that lists a classmate’s brother.  These wreaths are sponsored by Maine Sheriffs.  A ceremonial wreath was placed at the Korean Memorial and the WWII Memorial.  Remembrance Wreaths were placed on each State Column at the WWII Memorial.  Dolly placed one on West Virginia in honor of her Dad, WWII POW.  Saturday as they arrived at Arlington it was pouring, some 60,000 volunteers showed up and helped place over 240,000 Remembrance Wreaths.

It was a very full week. Our spirits are lifted by the knowledge that more Americans are united than divided and that the TEACH part of the Mission is spreading and more children and adults are learning to appreciate our Veterans and Value their Freedom.  As one of the speakers said, “Be an American worth fighting for.”

Dolly is quoted saying, “I don’t believe it is possible to do this journey and not come back renewed in pride to be an American, an understanding of the price of freedom and the knowledge that we all owe a debt that can never be paid to our veterans”.  

 

D. Sullivan, Proud Gold Star Mother of Captain Christopher J. Sullivan USA 1st CAV KIA 1/18/2005