HARRINGTON — In the end, Wreaths Across America volunteers placed more than 143,000 Christmas wreaths on veterans’ graves at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia Dec. 14.
Organizers were worried because donations to local and regional veterans’ graves increased this year, but the number of wreaths sponsored for Arlington decreased.
A final flurry of contributions — among them $250,000 from Google — brought the number of wreaths intended for Arlington up significantly.
Morrill Worcester and his wife, Karen, began the wreath-laying observance in 1992. He said Wreaths Across America has a new benchmark as Arlington celebrates its 150th anniversary next year.
“It is our goal to lay remembrance wreaths on each headstone here, to honor this place, and the brave men and women laid to rest here,” said Worcester, owner of Worcester Wreath Co. in Harrington.
Governor Paul LePage and Maine First Lady Ann LePage placed a wreath at the USS Maine Memorial followed by a wreath-laying at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
A convoy of more than 30 vehicles, including tractor-trailers, buses, motorcycles and cars carrying wreaths, veterans and families of fallen soldiers left Harrington with mountains of wreaths Dec. 7.
The group along the way stopped at schools, memorials and in communities in Maine, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland.
For the first time this year, the convoy placed a special Freedom Wreath at the Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island, N.Y.
Heidi Underwood of Cherryfield made the 6-foot-by-6-foot, 105-pound wreath for the national landmark. The wreath was covered in 140 lights and the bow was 4 feet wide.
“I took it slow and I was precise, nice green brush,” she said in an interview with the Downeast Coastal Press. “My hands were sore.”
Underwood has been making wreaths for 25 years and can create a standard-sized wreath in two minutes. The one she made for the Statue of Liberty took two hours.
“I will remember this for the rest of my life,” she said.