To the roar of Patriot Guard Riders’ motorcycles, the flashing of police cruiser lights, and the applause of dozens of veterans and well-wishers, a convoy of nine Wreaths Across America tractor-trailers rolled through the gates of the Topsfield Fairgrounds yesterday for a brief stop on the way to Arlington National Cemetery.
As they did so, they passed under an enormous American flag strung between the Topsfield and Middleton ladder trucks.
Those in the caravan included a bus filled with Gold Star and Blue Star families representing those whose sons and daughters have been killed in the service of their country or who are still serving in the military. Then, they all marched to Coolidge Hall on the fairgrounds for a meal and a ceremony. After a little more than an hour, the convoy headed out on the road to its next stop in Auburn, on its way south to Virginia.
The nonprofit veterans recognition organization plans to place 413,000 Christmas wreaths at veterans’ graves nationwide. Volunteers will place approximately 100,000 at graves at Arlington National Cemetery, and the rest will go to 800 sites throughout the country on Saturday, National Wreaths Across America Day.
In Topsfield, the group presented wreaths to seven communities and their local veterans organization; to the Statehouse’s Memorial Hall; and to Joanne Patton of Hamilton, the widow of Maj. Gen. George Patton.
It’s all part of a growing tradition that started quietly in 1992 when Morrill Worcester, owner of a wreath company in Harrington, Maine, had an excess of 5,000 wreaths he wanted to place at graves in Arlington National Cemetery. He had first visited the cemetery as a 12-year-old boy and never forgot the sight. Worcester got permission to lay the wreaths and got volunteers to place them, his wife, Karen, told a packed Coolidge Hall.