By Daniel Freeman
Wreaths Across America is coming to Cecil county for the first time.
A North East student, Julia Swoboda, decided to bring Wreaths Across America to Cecil county after participating in Wreaths Across America at Arlington National Cemetery last year. "We went in (to the cemetery) and it was just crazy to see the sea of people, not only rows upon rows of veterans who have fought for you and your freedom, but also everyone in the past and it was incredible to see that. For me and it really made me realize that I need to bring that to Cecil County," said Swoboda, a junior at the Tome School.
The local ceremony will be held at St. Mary Anne's church and cemetery. "I chose this church and the cemetery because my grandparents go to this church and I went to this church for a while. I think that it is important when you choose a cemetery, to choose a church that has a warm environment and they (the church members) are so supportive of this," said Swoboda.
She needed at least 60 wreaths to cover all the veterans’ graves in the cemetery. "We had to go around (the cemetery), and we kind of went by the flag count and the ones that we are not sure of, we are looking up," she said. She was able to go above and beyond their goal and was able to raise enough money to receive 162 wreaths. "All the extra wreaths are carry overs for next year," said Swoboda. She was able to raise some of the money needed by selling t-shirts that had info on them about the event.
In 1992, Worcester Wreath Company in Maine had a surplus of wreaths at the end of the holiday season. Morrill Worcester, the owner of the company, remembered his time in Arlington and found that he had an opportunity to honor the veterans. With help from one of Maine's senators, arrangements were made to have the surplus wreaths placed in the Arlington cemetery in one of the older sections. The tribute went on for many years without national recognition until 2005, when a photo of the stones covered in wreaths circled the internet. In 2006 many organizations contributed and wreath laying ceremonies were held at 150 locations across the country.
The Worcester family, along with other veterans, groups and individuals who helped with the annual veterans wreath ceremony in Arlington, formed the Wreaths Across America non-profit organization in 2007. Over 300 locations held wreath laying ceremonies in every state, including Puerto Rico and 24 overseas cemeteries. Around 100,000 wreaths were placed and there were 60,000 volunteers in 2008.
On December 13, 2008, Congress voted National Wreaths Across America Day to be celebrated on the 13th of that year. Today, National Wreaths Across America Day is annually observed on the third Saturday in December. In 2014, Wreaths Across America and its national network of volunteers laid over 700,000 wreaths at about 1,000 locations in the US, and other locations like Pearl Harbor. The organization’s goal of covering all of Arlington National cemetery was met in 2014 with 226,525 wreaths.
The event will be held on December 17, at noon at the cemetery, 315 S. Main St, North East, MD 21901. There will be a ceremony with multiple guest speakers. Family members of the veterans who are buried there will be allowed to place their wreaths first. Anyone is welcome to come to the ceremony and also to help place the wreaths as well.
"It is really good that we are bringing this here, because it gets the community involved," said Swoboda.