OCEAN PINES — Last year, Members of the Worcester County Veterans Memorial Foundation (WCVMF) engaged in their first real participation in the Wreaths Across America although many of them had been participating in the program for longer than that. WCVMF secretary, Marie Gilmore helped to organize the drive that places nearly 300 wreaths on the graves of fallen soldiers in the Eastern Shore Veterans Cemetery in Hurlock.
While the group provided 85 percent of the wreaths placed, since the cemetery is the final resting place of more than 5,000 service members, this year the WCVMF is making an even greater effort to reach out to the wider community for greater support.
“We’d eventually like to be able to have wreaths on all the graves,” Gilmore said. “I hope it’s something I can see in my lifetime.”
For now, the hope is to start the movement growing in the area, raise awareness about the need and, with any luck, grow local contribution significantly until it’s reached critical mass. And there are few organizations better mobilized to meet the need than the WCVMF, which supports veteran’s causes both in kind and monetarily.
“This is a perfect fit for the Veterans Foundation,” Gilmore said.
The Wreaths Across America program is a national effort. Trucking companies and truckers donate their participation bringing the wreaths from Main to the 50 state capitals. The “Worlds Largest Veterans Parade” begins Sunday, Dec. 5 with trucks leaving Main bound for the respective state capitals and Puerto Rico. From there the wreaths are distributed regionally.
Each state capitol has scheduled a state wreath laying for the following day.
Since, especially considering its relative distance to Arlington National Cemetery, the Eastern Shore Veterans Cemetery is small, groups such as the WCVMF and individuals are charged with distributing the wreaths. Gilmore said the Ocean Pines GARDEN CLUB has been an invaluable aid both in raising money and in helping to place the wreaths.
Gilmore said that members of the Civil Air Patrol have also taken up the cause and will provide support in both fundraising and distribution around the country.
Although officially, the wreath program will not place wreaths on specific graves, Gilmore said the WCVMF is happy to comply with such requests. She said there are so many volunteers who go up to place the wreaths that it’s a pleasure to be able to provide the small service to family members.
Given the person’s name and the grave number the volunteers split the requests among themselves and take the time to find the specific grave. Gilmore said they also take a photo of the placed wreath to provide the donor should they want it.
Gilmore and the GARDEN CLUB, WCVMF members and other volunteers will make the trip to Hurlock the morning of Saturday, Dec. 11 and, in coordination with similar events Veterans Cemetaries around the country place the wreaths on the graves section by section until the supply is exhausted. Nothing would make them happier than to spend the entire day placing wreaths because of overwhelming response.