Westfield welcomes wreaths

Students from Southampton Road School and North Middle School were on hand at the Massachusetts Turnpike exit Tuesday morning to wave and cheer as a convoy of vehicles representing Wreaths Across America entered the city. (Photo by Carl E. Hartdegen)

WESTFIELD -Hundreds of Westfield residents showed their support for Wreaths Across America Tuesday, coming out to the wreath-laying ceremony at Stanley Park, as well as lining the streets while the “Veterans Honor Parade” of trucks and motorcycles made its way through the city.
The Escort to Arlington, known as the Veterans Honor Parade, has become known as the world’s largest Veteran’s Parade, beginning in Harrington, Maine, and ending at Arlington National Cemetery, where the wreath-laying ceremony is still held annually every December. The parade visits various towns and cities along the way, making stops at schools, monuments, and veteran’s homes.
Morrill Worcester, owner of Worcester Wreath Company of Harrington, Maine, started Wreaths Across America in 1992 when he found himself with extra wreaths at the end of the holiday season. Worcester then donated those 5,000 wreaths to be placed at the headstones of an older section that was seen by a decreasing number of visitors each year at Arlington National Cemetery.
This tradition carried on quietly for a few years, until 2005 when the project was recognized nationally following a photo of headstones adorned with the wreaths that was taken at Arlington National Cemetery. In 2007, the Worcester family with the help of veterans and other volunteers who had helped contribute to their annual wreath ceremony in Arlington, created Wreaths Across America, a nonprofit organization. Their mission includes continuing and expanding their organization, as well as promoting other organizations that also recognize our Veteran’s.                                                                                                                                                           Stanley Park’s Managing Director, Bob McKean, said that Stanley Park was “truly honored and humbled to have been chosen for this great honor”  and that they “sincerely thank the entire city for coming out and showing their support for this sensational event”.
Students from Highland School, South Middle School, North Middle School, Abner Gibbs, and Juniper Park were also a part of the event. Highland School students lined both sides of Western Avenue, greeting the convoy as it made it’s way down the street while Abner Gibbs students walked to Court Street to wave as well. Juniper Park students went to Stanley Park to show their support as the trucks and motorcycles made their way into the Park. Eighth grade students Brittany Fountain, Jasmine Malocheb, and Joseph Uva from South Middle School spoke out at the event, as well as Mike Biskupic from North Middle School.
Seven wreaths representing the 5 Branches of Service, Merchant Marines, and POW/MIA’s, were laid at Stanley Park’s Veteran’s Memorial. Guest Remarks were made by Ann LePage, 1st Lady of Maine, Karen Worcester, Executive Director of Wreaths Across America, and Mary Beyers, President of American Gold Star Mothers.

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