Wreaths Across America observed across region

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Hebron - posted Tue., Dec. 17, 2013
Service men and women participate in a Wreaths Across America ceremony in Hebron on Dec. 14. They are (l-r): 1st Lt. Stephen Blanda, Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Jarrett Gonzalez, Corporal Brandon Cutlip, Major Thomas Olander, Jr., Cmdr. Robert Oatman, Logistics Specialist 2nd Class Kathleen Trammel, and Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Marek Krach. Photos by Melanie Savage.
Service men and women participate in a Wreaths Across America ceremony in Hebron on Dec. 14. They are (l-r): 1st Lt. Stephen Blanda, Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Jarrett Gonzalez, Corporal Brandon Cutlip, Major Thomas Olander, Jr., Cmdr. Robert Oatman, Logistics Specialist 2nd Class Kathleen Trammel, and Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Marek Krach. Photos by Melanie Savage.

Despite the snow, and temperatures hovering just under 20 degrees, Wreaths Across America observances went on all across the region during the front end of the first major winter storm of the season on Dec. 14. In Hebron, U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Martin Kelly took over a ceremony initiated by his son, Matt Kelly, two years ago.

Wreaths Across America began in 1992 when the Worcester Wreath Company in Harrington, Maine, found itself with extra wreaths near the end of the holiday season. Company owner Morrill Worcester, remembering a boyhood trip to Arlington National Cemetery, made arrangements (with the help of Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe) for the wreaths to be placed in Arlington in one of the older sections of the cemetery that no longer received many visitors. Over the years, the annual trip from Maine to Virginia has grown, developing a mission statement to “Remember, Honor, Teach.” In 2010, Wreaths Across America and a national network of volunteers laid more than 220,000 memorial wreaths at 545 locations in the United States and beyond, including ceremonies at the Pearl Harbor Memorial, Bunker Hill, Valley Forge and the Sept. 11 site.

The younger Kelly was perusing the Internet when he came across the Wreaths website. He realized that Hebron didn’t hold a ceremony, and set about to change that. Kelly again oversaw the ceremony last year as a senior at RHAM. This year, he is involved in the Navy ROTC at Fordham University. “He’s in the middle of exams now so he couldn’t be here,” said his dad. “So this year it has fallen to me.”

Each of seven wreaths provided by Wreaths Across America commemorated a different faction of the U.S. military: U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Merchant Marines and POW/MIAs.

“Two years ago we held the first Hebron Wreaths Across America ceremony,” said Kelly. “At that time there were 500 ceremonies simultaneously taking place across our country. Today that number has grown to 900, and we are proud to be part of this great tradition.”

After a prayer by Church of the Holy Family’s Father Michael Smith, brief remarks by Major Thomas Olander, Jr., from the Connecticut Air National Guard, a ceremonial volley performed by the Hebron Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion Post, the laying of wreaths and the playing of “Taps,” Kelly summed up the ceremony.

“The wreaths before you represent our commitment as a united America to remember the fallen. We also want these holiday wreaths to symbolize our honor to those who have served and are serving in the armed forces of our great nation and to their families who endure sacrifices every day on our behalf,” said Kelly. “To our children, we want you to remember that the freedoms you enjoy today have not been free, but have come with a cost that someday, you may have to pay yourself.”


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