MANTON — When America calls its servicemen and women to action — even during the holidays — they respond. This weekend, that dedication and sacrifice will be acknowledged across the country and right here in Northern Michigan through the Wreaths Across America campaign.
During a ceremony Saturday in the Manton Consolidated Schools’ Multi-Purpose Room, wreaths will be placed in honor of those who served and are serving in the United States Marine Corps, U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Coast Guard and the Merchant Marines. A remembrance wreath will also be placed in memory of servicemen whose last known status was either prisoner of war or missing in action.
After the ceremony, remaining wreaths will be placed on the tombstones of every veteran interred in Liberty Township Cemetery.
The Saturday ceremony will be held at noon sharp — when hundreds of similar ceremonies across the country also will begin — and it is recommended attendees show up around 11:45 a.m.
As they have the last several years, Manton Elementary School students raised money through penny drives to cover the cost of the wreaths. Elementary Principal Jon Paul Kotona said the students were able to collect $500 this year, enough to buy 75 wreaths.
Also during the ceremony, Clare Sheehan will be singing the National Anthem and “I’ll be Home for Christmas.‘
Since its humble beginnings in the 1990s, Wreaths Across America has grown into a worldwide campaign, with organizers for the first time last year allowed to place wreaths at Normandy, France, where so many American soldiers gave their lives.
“In many homes, there is an empty seat for one who is serving or one who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country,‘ reads a statement on the Wreaths Across America website. “There is no better time to express our appreciation than during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.‘
Wreaths Across America was started by Morrill Worcester, owner of Worcester Wreath Company of Harrington, Maine.
In 1992, Worcester found himself with a surplus of wreaths nearing the end of the holiday season. Remembering his boyhood experience at Arlington National Cemetery, Worcester realized he had an opportunity to honor America’s veterans.
With the aid of Maine’s Sen. 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.
The 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. 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 and thank Morrill Worcester for honoring veterans.