Three 18-wheelers accompanied by an escort of some 50 vehicles are making their way to Arlington National Cemetery, bearing thousands of fragrant balsam fir wreaths, beribboned with bright red bows. Yesterday, the caravan traveled to Hamilton, MA, home of the late Gen. George S. Patton, Jr.
This Saturday my friend Marylou Wade and I will be at Arlington to assist in placing the wreaths against the white marble headstones of our fallen service men and women who lie in peace.
Here’s the report from yesterday’s Newburyport MA Daily News where a wreath was placed in the hometown of Gen. George S. Patton, Jr.
Students wave on wreaths
Convoy honors Pearl Harbor, Gen. Patton
By Steve Landwehr
Adorning gravestones with boughs to honor the dead is an American custom that dates to the 1800s, but the history of wreaths themselves is much older.
The ancient Greeks and Romans gave athletic champions wreaths woven of laurel branches, while military heroes were presented with wreaths made from the symbol of a peace offering, olive branches.
But peace has historically come at a high price — the lives of the young, mostly men, who went to war believing the freedom of their country might demand the ultimate sacrifice of them.
Yesterday, the 68th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, a convoy loaded with wreaths destined for Arlington National Cemetery detoured through Newburyport and later Rowley, where students from Pine Grove School waved flags as it passed by on its way to a brief stop in Hamilton in honor of that town’s most famous former resident, Gen. George S. Patton Jr.
Wreaths Across America was conceived in 1992, when Worcester Wreath Co. owner Morrill Worcester found he had 5,000 wreaths left in inventory as the end of the holiday season approached.
With the help of Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe, Worcester began an annual tradition of delivering the wreaths to Arlington to be placed on graves in a section of the cemetery that was seeing fewer visitors every year.
Worcester’s efforts were for the most part unnoticed until 2005, when a photo of the wreaths resting on gravestones in the snow-covered cemetery circulated on the Internet. The Patriot Guard Riders volunteered to escort the wreaths, and by 2008, cemeteries in every state, Puerto Rico and overseas were being decorated at Christmas.
The stop in Hamilton came at the urging of Stanley Wojtusik, one of the legions of survivors of the Battle of the Bulge who have worshipped Patton ever since.
The battle lasted just over a month, from mid-December 1944 through January 1945, but it was a pivotal engagement.
It got its name from the bulge created in the Allied forces in the Ardennes forest in Belgium and northern France by German regiments desperate to halt their rapidly advancing foes. It was the largest land battle America took part in during the war.
The embattled Allies hung on as Patton wheeled his Third Army toward the town of Bastogne, reaching it on Dec. 26.
“Gen. Patton was the hero of all the generals,” Wojtusik said. “There’s no question about it, he was a natural-born leader.”