Patten resident Lorna Harris and her father, James Troutt, a Sherman resident, hold up a flag commemorating Harris’s son Dustin, who died in Iraq in 2006 while serving with the 172nd Battalion Stryker Brigade. Harris now serves on the board of directors of Wreaths Across America. PHOTO BY DAVID ROZA

Special escort to Wreaths Across America event starts in Ellsworth



ELLSWORTH — It was a crisp sunny morning last Saturday at the Hannaford parking lot, where firefighters, police officers, bikers, soldiers and the families of fallen soldiers gathered for a patriotic occasion.

“I think there are a lot of people above who made it a nice day,” said Lorna Harris, a Patten resident. Harris lost her son Dustin in Iraq in 2006, where he was serving with the 172nd Battalion Stryker Brigade.

Eleven years later, Harris helps honor Dustin and countless other fallen soldiers as a member of the board of directors of Wreaths Across America, a nonprofit that helps remember veterans by placing wreaths on their graves in Arlington and across the country.

“It’s going to be a great day,” said Mike Edgecomb, the state captain for the Maine Patriot Guard riders, the official motorcycle escort for Wreaths Across America.
PHOTO BY DAVID ROZA

Last Saturday, Wreaths Across America hosted a concert by the band Kansas and a performance by the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment’s drill team. The event was held at the Wreaths Across America headquarters in Columbia Falls, but a veteran remembrance event is incomplete without an escort of motorcycles and first responder vehicles.

For this event, the escort started in Ellsworth.

“It’s going to be a great day,” said Mike Edgecomb, sporting a goatee and a leather vest adorned with military patches. Edgecomb is the state captain for the Maine Patriot Guard riders, the official motorcycle escort for Wreaths Across America.

A veteran of both the Army and the Navy, Edgecomb said the Patriot Guard was formed to go to funerals and protect mourning families from being interrupted by protesters. Since then, the group’s mission has expanded to include escorting the annual Wreaths Across America trip to Arlington National Cemetery.

“It’s amazing driving the escort,” Edgecomb said. “You don’t realize the impact of laying the wreath until you lay one down for someone. It means they’re not forgotten.”

Edgecomb wasn’t the only one excited for the event.

“The guys are pumped,” said Maj. Eric Alexander, the operations officer for the U.S. 3rd Infantry Regiment. Nicknamed “The Old Guard,” the 3rd is the oldest active duty regiment in the Army.

Bikers, firefighters, police officers, active-duty soldiers and the family members of fallen soldiers all gathered at the Hannaford parking lot in Ellsworth on Saturday morning. It was the start of their drive to Columbia Falls for a wreath-tipping and tree-tagging event and concert hosted by Wreaths Across America.
PHOTO BY DAVID ROZA

Representing the regiment on Saturday was the United States Army Drill Team, a platoon of soldiers who perform elaborate routines of spinning bayonet-tipped 1903 Springfield rifles.

The team had a 12-to-14-minute performance planned for Columbia Falls, and it had to do it with very little sleep. Due to an engine failure, the team’s bus broke down on the drive from Washington, D.C., so it didn’t arrive in Ellsworth until after 3 a.m.

“Sometimes that’s the best way to do it,” said Capt. Nathan Lease, the commander of the drill team. Sleep or no, Lease said the team practices at least 30 hours a week, and that it usually takes two years for soldiers to get on the team.

“Some people may never interact with a soldier,” said Maj. Alexander. “So we try to be ambassadors for the military.”

Alexander said his grandfathers served in World War II, so he thought the performance Saturday would be “a good way to remember them.”

The major added that this was the first time the current drill team had been to Maine. Naturally, there was one more thing he was excited about.

“I’m looking forward to the lobster lunch,” he said.

David Roza

David Roza

Former reporter, David Roza grew up in Washington County, Maryland, has reported in Washington County, Oregon, and covered news in Hancock County and Washington County, Maine for The American and Out & About.

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