14:55 PM

Allies Gather for Border Ceremonies to Honor Veterans

Wreaths Across America will honor the service and sacrifice of military veterans from the United States and Canada with a wreath exchange Saturday on Ferry Point Bridge, which spans the St. Croix River and connects Calais, Maine, and St. Stephen, New Brunswick.

“Our mission is to Remember, Honor and Teach about the service and sacrifices of veterans,” said Karen Worcester, executive director of Wreaths Across America. Worcester and her husband, Morrill, started the nonprofit organization 11 years ago.

The HART (Honoring Allies and Remembering Together) Ceremony on the Ferry Point Bridge in Maine, which begins at 10 a.m. EST, was organized to recognize veterans on both sides of the border as represented by American Gold Star Mothers and Canadian Silver Cross families and including young men and women from Canada who are serving or served in the U.S. military.

Cadets from Civil Air Patrol (the official auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force) will escort Gold Star Mothers and Royal Canadian Air Cadets will escort Silver Cross families to the center of the bridge, where the Gold Star Mothers will present a remembrance wreath to the Silver Cross families for placement nearby at the Cenotaph Memorial Monument in St. Stephen.

The bridge wreath exchange ceremony in Maine is one of the oldest of the events held across America this month. Similar ceremonies are planned on the Ambassador Bridge between Detroit, Michigan, and Windsor, Ontario; in Sweetgrass, Montana, where the U.S. Interstate 15 bridge acts as a Canadian gateway to Coutts, Alberta; and on the Dalton Cache Border Crossing on Haines Highway, where the state of Alaska connects with the Yukon Territory of Canada.

The Maine bridge event kicks off a full week of activity for Wreaths Across America, which is providing nearly 2 million remembrance wreaths for wreath-laying ceremonies at 1,600 veterans cemeteries and memorials nationwide and abroad.

CAP and its members will lead or participate, often with color or honor guards, in many of the observances scheduled at cemeteries and war memorials. The largest event is Dec. 15 at Arlington National Cemetery outside of Washington, D.C., where over 250,000 wreaths will be decorated.

“This opportunity provided by Wreaths Across America, to sponsor wreaths and to ceremoniously place them on veterans’ graves, is a holiday tradition for Civil Air Patrol,” said CAP National Commander Maj. Gen. Mark Smith. “We see it as an excellent way to honor our veterans and serve our communities.”

Wreaths bound for Arlington are being transported next week on a 750-mile journey from Columbia Falls, Maine, after a sendoff ceremony at sunrise on Saturday. The route is one of this country’s longest annual veterans’ celebrations, as patriotic Americans, veterans’ groups and other volunteer organizations like CAP show their support for the project with parades and ceremonies at schools, monuments, veterans’ homes and communities along the way to remind people how important it is to Remember, Honor and Teach.

Wreaths Across America began in 2007 as an offshoot of the Arlington National Cemetery wreath project, which was started in 1992 with the annual placement of wreaths donated by Worcester Wreath Co. Today, it is a monumental initiative, with partners like Civil Air Patrol, the Maine State Society of Washington, D.C., and other veterans’ groups participating, not to mention the many members of the nation’s trucking industry and tens of thousands of private citizens who purchase wreaths through sponsorships sold by CAP and the many other veterans’ groups and other organizations involved.