Friday, December 18, 2009

Wreaths Across America Stops at Wells Junior High School

By Reg Bennett
On Dec. 7th, the convoy known as Wreaths Across America stopped briefly at Wells Junior High School to take part in a wreath laying ceremony at Ocean View Cemetery. This stop has become a part of the journey that this organization takes on its annual 750-mile trip from Harrington, Maine, where the wreaths are made at the Worcester Wreath Company, to Arlington National Cemetery. The convoy was carrying over 100,000 “remembrance” wreaths to be placed at gravesites of veterans in Arlington and at many other cemeteries in the country.
Around 8 a.m., a portion of Route 1 in Wells was cordoned off by the Wells Police Department. Soon after, semi-tractor trailers carrying balsam fir wreaths parked adjacent to the front of the school and across from Ocean View Cemetery. The convoy, consisting of dozens of cars and other vehicles, was led by John O’Leary and his wife Bunny of the Patriot Guard Riders, an organization that escorts the convoy to the Washington D.C. area.
At Ocean View Cemetery Principal Chris Chessie introduced Cassidy Healey and Brittany Stutes who led in the Pledge of Allegiance. Chessie also acknowledged Cindy Roche, Sally Morse and student volunteers who made the wreaths placed at Ocean View. There were many in attendance including the entire student body of WJHS, Karen and Morrill Worcester of the Worcester Wreath Company, numerous veterans including Commander James Kilbride of the Wells-Ogunquit American Legion Post 143 and Kennebunk VFW Post 6545 and American Legion Commander Ken Kingsley. Commander Kilbride was also a part of the ceremony’s honor guard.
As Taps was played on the trumpet by WHS student Justin Lareau, eight students placed wreaths at memorials to veterans. Those students included Kayla Looper, Charlotte Merrifield, Tim Barnard, Abby Ford, Barry White, Juliane Fitzpatrick, Anthony Crawford and Desirae Kuhn.
After the ceremony, guests were invited back to the school’s cafeteria for refreshments and a brief performance of one song by the 7th and 8th grade chorus entitled, Song for the Unsung Hero.
Winners of the VFW’s Patriot’s Pen contest were also acknowledged and photographed.
“It’s great that the Wells Junior High participates in this. It is a good cause. It is rewarding to them and to the veterans,” said Commander Ken Kingsley who served with the Navy Seabees in Vietnam.
“This is a wonderful, wonderful event,” said U.S. Army veteran and Director of Emergency Management for York County Robert Bohlman, who was at the wreath laying ceremony and at the reception. “Wells has a chance to participate in this and it brings out what the whole program across the nation is really about and we’re glad Mr. Worcester was able to stop here.”
The tradition of bringing wreaths from Harrington to Arlington by Mr. Worcester began in 1992 when he had wreaths left over during the holiday season. He decided to drive 5,000 wreaths to Arlington. That was 18 trips ago.
Photo caption: Leading the honor guard to Ocean View Cemetery from WJHS is Commander James Kilbride of the Wells-Ogunquit American Legion Post 143 and WHS student Justin Lareau. (Reg Bennett photo)