Wreaths Across America stops in city

By Fran Gonzalez | Dec 09, 2019
Photo by: Fran Gonzalez The Wreaths Across America convoy crosses the Passagassawakeag River before stopping for an hour-long ceremony at Belfast Area High School Dec. 8.

Belfast — The annual Wreaths Across America convoy of tractor-trailer trucks bringing thousands of Maine wreaths to Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia stopped at Belfast Area High School Sunday for an hour-long ceremony.

Eleven trucks hauling 2.1 million wreaths, along with numerous law enforcement personnel from across the state and wrapped escort vehicles transporting Gold Star Families and veterans, exited Route 1 and turned onto Waldo Avenue before stopping at the school.

The high school gym was filled with supporters who turned out to see the ceremony, which included performances by the high school cast of "Newsies" singing a song from their production and the Troy Howard Middle School Chorus.

Principal Jeff Lovejoy said it was an honor and a privilege to be part of the event.

"We are honored to host the lunch stop," Lovejoy said. "I am very proud of the students who participated." He said there was no hesitation from anyone about taking part in the ceremony.

"The kids were so excited to pay tribute," Lovejoy said.

Local organizations present included members of Randall-Collins VFW Post 3108 in Belfast, the Patriot Riders, the local Coast Guard unit, state troopers, Belfast police, Waldo County Sheriff's Office, as well as, local Girl and Boy Scout troops.

Teachers Sarah Nelson and Briana Brennick of Ames Elementary School, along with three of their students, spoke about what they learned in placing flags at veterans’ graves in Grove Cemetery on Memorial Day in partnership with the VFW Post, reciting each service branch and each name, and then placing the flag.

High school students presented wreaths to area Gold Star Families and students performed a symbolic flag-folding ceremony with 13 folds.

Jim Roberts from the VFW was also presented with a wreath, which Lovejoy said would be displayed on the Belfast Armstice Footbridge at a community ceremony Dec. 14 at 1 p.m.

Sen. Erin Herbig, D-Waldo, presented Lovejoy with a flag flown over the Maine state capital, "in recognition of Belfast Area High School for honoring the 2019 Wreaths Across America convoy."

The ceremony closed with a rousing version of "America the Beautiful" with the harmonies of high school students Emily Wakeman and Hayle Withee, followed by Steve Brown of the Belfast VFW playing "Taps."

According to Susan Patten, WAA spokesperson, the wreaths will also be placed at 2,000 participating cemeteries along the way. She said the tradition started in 1992, when Worcester Wreath founder Morrill Worcester received permission to place 5,000 surplus wreaths at Arlington.

The veterans' wreaths are sponsored by American citizens, Patten said, and sponsorship cost is $15 per wreath.

The escort will travel down the East Coast stopping at schools, memorials and other locations along the way to spread the mission to remember, honor and teach. Stops with public events will be held in Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Washington, D.C., before arriving at Arlington National Cemetery the morning of Saturday, Dec. 14.

A caravan of law enforcement cruisers from across the state escorts the convoy to Belfast Area High School Dec. 8. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
Members of a local Girl Scout troop anxiously await Gold Star families, veterans and members of law enforcement personnel attending the ceremony at Belfast Area High School Dec. 8. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
Members of Randall-Collins VFW Post 3108 in Belfast greet Gold Star families, veterans, tractor-trailer drivers and members of law enforcement attending the Wreaths Across America ceremony at Belfast Area High School Dec. 8. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
The Belfast Area High School gym is filled with community members and convoy participants Dec. 8, as the Wreaths Across America entourage stopped for an hour-long ceremony. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
(Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
Local Boy Scout troops greet convoy participants Dec. 8 at Belfast Area High School as the Wreaths Across America procession stops at the school for an hour-long ceremony. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
(Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
(Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
Volunteers holding flags greet the Wreaths Across America convoy at its stop at Belfast Area High School Dec. 8. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
(Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
Steve Brown of the Randall-Collins VFW Post 3108 in Belfast plays "Taps," Dec. 8 at the Wreaths Across America ceremony. The convoy departed shortly after with a specially prepared bag lunch sponsored by Hannaford Supermarkets. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
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