By: Sherry Williams Kidd | Email: Click Here
Posted: Dec. 13, 2017 | 1:35 p.m.
DINWIDDIE – At noon on Saturday, December 16, Dinwiddie’s Historic Poplar Grove Cemetery will be the site of its first-ever Wreaths Across America Ceremony.
The poignant ceremony will be conducted by the Dinwiddie JROTC, under the direction of Chief Dawn Cater, and Rangers of the National Battlefield.
“This ceremony has grown like wildfire over just a few short years, and I am so glad that we are finally conducting our own WAA Ceremony right here in Central Virginia, in Dinwiddie’s beautiful and historic Poplar Grove Cemetery,” Park Ranger Elizabeth Dinger said.
According to the WAA website, “One man’s annual tribute to our veterans inspired a legion of volunteers and gave rise to the Wreaths Across America of today. Morrill Worcester, owner of Worcester Wreath Company of Harrington, Maine, was a 12-year-old paperboy for the Bangor Daily News when he won a trip to Washington D.C.
His first trip to the Nation’s Capital was one he would never forget, and Arlington National Cemetery made an especially indelible impression on him.
This experience followed him throughout his life and successful career, reminding him that his good fortune was due, in large part, to the values of this nation and the veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. In 1992, Worcester Wreath found themselves with a surplus of wreaths nearing the end of the holiday season. Remembering his boyhood experience at Arlington, Worcester realized he had an opportunity to honor our country’s veterans.=
With the aid of Maine Senator Olympia Snowe, arrangements were made for the wreaths to be placed at Arlington in one of the older sections of the cemetery that had been receiving fewer visitors with each passing year. As plans were underway, a number of other individuals and organizations stepped up to help. James Prout, owner of local trucking company Blue Bird Ranch, Inc., generously provided transportation all the way to Virginia. Volunteers from the local American Legion and VFW Posts gathered with members of the community to decorate each wreath with traditional red, hand-tied bows. Members of the Maine State Society of Washington, D.C. helped to organize the wreath-laying, which included a special ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
The annual tribute went on quietly for several years, until 2005, when a photo of the stones at Arlington, adorned with wreaths and covered in snow, circulated around the internet. Suddenly, the project received national attention. Thousands of requests poured in from all over the country from people wanting to help with Arlington, to emulate the Arlington project at their National and State cemeteries, or to simply share their stories.”
The Wreaths Across America movement truly snowballed from there and the iconic picture at Arlington was shared across the internet and media in 2005, inspiring increased national interest in the annual tribute and prompting the formation of Wreaths Across America as a non-profit.
Now, Dinwiddie County will conduct its own, and first-ever ceremony at Poplar Grove Cemetery.
According to WAA, “In 2008, over 300 locations held wreath-laying ceremonies in every state, Puerto Rico and 24 overseas cemeteries. Over 100,000 wreaths were placed on veterans’ graves. Over 60,000 volunteers participated. And that year, December 13, 2008, was unanimously voted by the US Congress as ‘Wreaths Across America Day’.”
In 2014, Wreaths Across America and its national network of volunteers laid over 700,000 memorial wreaths at 1,000 locations in the United States and beyond, including ceremonies at the Pearl Harbor Memorial, as well as Bunker Hill, Valley Forge and the sites of the September 11 tragedies.
This was accomplished with help from 2,047 fundraising groups, corporate contributions, and donations of trucking, shipping, and thousands of helping hands. The organization’s goal of covering Arlington National Cemetery was met in 2014 with the placement of 226,525 wreaths.”
“The Poplar Grove Cemetery ceremony will begin at noon,” Dinger said. The seven official wreaths will be placed near the cemetery’s flagpole.”
A brief ceremony will follow after the placement of the official wreaths. At this time, all donated wreaths will be placed on gravesites–Some will be placed on specific graves at the requests of the donors and other wreaths will be placed on other gravesites.
“So far, we have 11 donated wreaths,” said Dinger, adding, “We also have several residents that have stepped up and volunteered to help us out with the ceremony. I feel this is quite good for our first Wreaths Across America ceremony.”
If you would like to help in this important ceremony that demonstrates our Nation’s remembrance, devotion, and heartfelt thanks and gratitude to our fallen American heroes this Christmas season, you can do so in one of two ways.
You can donate a wreath for placement on a grave, or you can volunteer in helping out with the ceremony.
To learn more, contact Park Ranger Elizabeth C. Dinger by telephone at (804) 732-3531, extension 208 or email at Elizabeth_dinger@nps.gov.
What better gift can be given in remembrance of our fallen heroes during the Christmas season, than a beautiful wreath on the gravesite where they were laid for their final rest?