Friday, December 9, 2011

Wreaths Across America Visits York County

Convoy stops in Kittery for special ceremony before continuing to Arlington National Cemetery.

By Molly McCoy
Staff Reporter


On Monday morning, December 5, the Wreaths Across America (WAA) convoy traveled through York County, making stops at Kennebunk Town Hall, Wells Middle School and Kittery Trading Post (KTP) before continuing the journey to Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. The large group of trucks, busses, cars, motorcycles and police escorts began on Sunday, December 4 in Harrington, Maine, and will reach the Cemetery on Saturday, December 10.

According to its website, Wreaths Across America is a nonprofit organization founded “to continue and expand the annual wreath laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery begun by Maine businessman, Morrill Worcester, in 1992.” The organization’s mission, “Remember, Honor, Teach,” is carried out with the help of thousands of volunteers who aid at local, regional and national levels. This year’s convoy included the annual participants (wreath trucks, local and state police, Patriot Guard Riders and retired and active military personnel), in addition to the American Gold Star Mothers, Wives, Fathers, Husbands and Children, and Maine’s First Lady Ann LePage, all of whom joined the trip for the first time this year.

At 10 a.m. on December 5, the entire “parade” came to a halt outside of Kittery Trading Post on Route 1 before passing the Maine border into New Hampshire. Once the trucks had turned off their engines, the sirens had ceased, and the many Patriot Guard Riders had dismounted their rumbling motorcycles, the group proceeded inside KTP for a special ceremony and wreath dedication.

John and Bunny O’Leary of the Patriot Guard Riders started the program and thanked both the participants and visitors for their support. Founder and coordinator of Run for the Fallen Maine (RFTFM) John Mixon presented Karen and Morrill Worcester of WAA with sweatshirts, tee-shirts, 2011 ornaments and a commemorate DVD of this summer’s event. Mixon also presented Ann LePage with a 2011 ornament on behalf of RFTFM. The ceremony continued with wreath dedications, words from the Worcesters, Ann LePage, and other participants, and music by Don Campbell and his wife Tonya. Don and Tonya performed their original song, “The Snow at Arlington,” which was inspired by WAA and is available on their latest Christmas Album, “A Don Campbell Christmas, Volume 2.”

Maine First Lady Ann LePage, who joined the convoy for the first time this year, is traveling with WAA the entire length of the trip. “This is so incredible,” she said. “I have never done anything of which I have been more proud or honored to be even a small part. I’ve never been to Arlington, and this is such a meaningful way to make the trip.” Governor LePage will join the group in Virginia on Saturday, December 10 for the wreath laying ceremony.

For more information on Wreaths Across America, visit

Photo Caption: Among the wreaths dedicated at the Monday morning ceremony was a special wreath for Kittery Trading Post (KTP), accepted by Vice President, Specialty Sports Division, Jon Morrill. Wreaths Across America thanked KTP for hosting the ceremony and for their ongoing support of veterans’ causes. Pictured (left to right): Executive Director of WAA Karen Worcester, WAA Founder Morrill Worcester, Maine’s First Lady Ann LePage, and Jon Morrill. (Photo by Molly McCoy)

Local Para-Equestrian Travels to Australia to Compete


With a Team Gold under their belt earned at the 2011 CPEDI3*in Mexico City, the United States Para-Equestrian Team have taken to the air headed to beautiful Melbourne, Australia. The 2011 CPEDI3* in Werribee, Victoria, Australia began Thursday, December 8 with a horse inspection, followed by the Team Test on Friday, Individual Test on Saturday, and finally the Freestyle competition on Sunday, December 11, 2011. This international competition is held in conjunction with the Saddle World Dressage Festival held at the Werribee Park National Equestrian Center located southwest of Melbourne, Australia. The United States Para-Equestrian Team consists of Donna Ponessa from New Windsor, NY for Grade Ia, Rebecca Hart of Unionville, PA for Grade II, Erin Alberda of Woodinville, WA for Grade III, and Mary Jordan from Wells, ME representing Grade IV. Each rider will compete throughout the weekend against Para-Equestrian team members from Australia, New Zealand, and Japan. This competition is one more stride on the road to the 2012 Paralympics held in London, England.
The United States Para-Equestrian Team members selected for Australia have been padding their resumes for months for this competition. At the CPEDI3* Saugerties held in September 2011 team members Jonathan Wentz, Dale Dedrick, Rebecca Hart, and Mary Jordan led their team to win Gold for U.S.A. Two months later, team members Jonathan Wentz, Dale Dedrick, and Donna Ponessa secured another Team Gold at the CPEDI3* Mexico City. This week, Team USA is hoping to achieve additional success in front of international judges Mr. Kjell Myhre (NOR), Dr. Ulf Wilken (SWE), Ms. Jan Geary (AUS), Ms. Sue Cunningham (AUS), and Ms. Wendy Barker (AUS).
Team member Mary Jordan noted, "Riding in Australia is an incredible opportunity to once again ride in front of top international judges and build competitive mileage on the heels of our excellent recent experience of competing at the CPEDI3* in Saugerties, NY."
Traveling abroad is not a new concept to top-level equestrian athletes. Mary and her teammates’ past competitions have included four star European Championships in Norway, three stars in Canada, New York, California, Mexico, and Chicago, and teammate Rebecca Hart went to the 2008 Hong Kong Paralympics where she placed fourth individually. Most recently, in 2010 Rebecca Hart, Erin Alberda, and Mary Jordan competed at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games held in Lexington, KY where the Para-Equestrian Dressage discipline made their first World Equestrian Games debut. For the United States competing abroad gives riders an opportunity to be judged on foreign soil. Mary explained, "I find competing overseas in challenging pressure situations and unusual circumstances an invaluable tool as it builds competitive experience, seasoning, and confidence. I know our team has embraced this opportunity to gain competitive international mileage and in the long run that type of commitment by the riders will benefit future United States Para-Equestrian teams."
The F.E.I. team selections for the 2012 London Paralympics will be on the mind of each Para-Equestrian during the Australia competition. With only months left to build team slots for the 2012 London Paralympics the riders will have to give their best performances. Due to the financial responsibility and logistics of flying horses to Australia the United States Para-Equestrian Team has been generously given horses to use during the CPEDI3*. "The Australian horse owners have been truly kind and generous in this process of allowing us to use their very talented horses," smiled Mary. "Our team looks forward to competing in Australia."
For more information about the 2011 Melbourne CPEDI3* or the Saddle World Dressage Festival or please visit

Photo Caption: Mary Jordan and Sebastian. (Photo by Lindsay McCall, courtesy USPEA)

Local Students Nominated to United States Service Academies


Congresswoman Chellie Pingree has announced her office’s nominees to the United States Service Academies—the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, U.S. Military Academy at West Point, U.S. Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs, and U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, New York. To be considered for an appointment to a service academy, applicants must be nominated by an authorized nominating source, which includes members of Congress.

“This strong group of students represent some of Maine’s best and brightest,” said Pingree. “We are very lucky that they have chosen to offer their talents in service to the country and it’s an honor to nominate them.”

The nominees were interviewed by a panel of six on their academic record, test scores, leadership ability, involvement in extra-curricular activities, and exemplified commitment to serving their country.

Nominees from York County include Eric Arnold of Saco (nominated to U.S. Naval & Air Force Academies), Colin Bartlett of North Berwick (nominated to U.S. Naval Academy), Matthew Beatrice of Lebanon (nominated to U.S. Military & Merchant Marine Academies), Briana Eaton of York (nominated to U.S. Naval Academy), Zachariah Jacques of Saco (nominated to U.S. Air Force & Military Academies), and Adam Neubert of Lebanon (nominated to U.S. Military Academy).