Morrill Worcester has been in the wreath business for 47 years at Worcester Wreath Company of Harrington, Maine. But he’s better known as the man behind Wreaths Across America, a nonprofit organization dedicated to remembering and honoring veterans.
In 1992, Worcester donated remembrance wreaths to be placed on the graves of veterans at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C. as a way to honor heroes during the holidays. Little did he imagine that 25 years later, the program would have expanded worldwide with an estimated 1.5 million volunteers arranging wreath-laying ceremonies in their hometowns.
“It’s so incredible, you have to pinch yourself,” said Worcester, founder of Wreaths Across America. “It started with four people, eight VFW members and 5,000 wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery. Today, we have 1,410 participating cemeteries in all 50 states and beyond.”
Worcester Wreath Company owns 22,000 acres of land, with about 7,000 acres in production for balsam. Rather than cut down trees, the tips are harvested every three years to be made into wreaths and adorned with big red bows. Worcester’s team consists of 650 harvesters including 130 tip pickers and two Freightliner 114SDs to haul the balsam out of the woods. The company is on track to produce 1.6 million wreaths this year to honor veterans.
Every year, truck drivers and fleet owners volunteer their time and vehicles to deliver wreaths from Worcester’s facility in Maine to Arlington National Cemetery and other final resting places for veterans. One of those volunteers is Joey Slaughter, owner of Blue Ridge Transport and a Freightliner Team Run Smart Pro. He has been participating in Wreaths Across America since 2014, and this year he made the trip to Arlington in a new Freightliner Cascadia®.
“It’s humbling and is an honor to be able to deliver these wreaths to Arlington National Cemetery. There are so many heroes buried here,” said Slaughter. “As a veteran myself, I think it’s up to us to lead the charge and support this type of work as best as we can. The older generations have carried the torch before us, both in war and in honoring veterans, and I’m glad it’s my generation’s turn to step up and do its part.”
Sherri Garner Brumbaugh, president and CEO of Garner Trucking Inc. and vice chairman of the American Trucking Association (ATA), has donated the use of patriotic, custom-painted Freightliner trucks and their drivers to volunteer with Wreaths Across America for five years. This year, her Driver of the Year made the trip from Maine to Arlington National Cemetery, and last year’s winner delivered wreaths at veteran grave sites in their hometown of Findlay, Ohio. Brumbaugh’s son organized the Findlay Wreaths Across America remembrance as his Eagle Scout Service Project.
“Bringing it into our community, you see that it’s so much more than just placing wreaths,” said Brumbaugh. “Parents talk to their kids about why we should honor and respect our veterans and the freedoms they’ve afforded us. It raises awareness and bestows appreciation.”
Every year, Wreaths Across America volunteers make the trip from Harrington, Maine, to Arlington National Cemetery on the second or third Saturday of December. Along the way, they make stops at schools, monuments, and veterans’ homes to remind people to remember, honor, and teach. Some people refer to this trip as the world’s largest veterans’ parade, and this year they made 26 stops along the way.
“These wreaths would not get across the country if it were not for the trucking industry. There’s no other industry that could make it happen,” said Brumbaugh. “To be part of something bigger than you is a great feeling. And to think, it’s only made possible by a very giving wreath-making company.”