BY JANIE ROSMAN
Carolynne Bayer’s fourth-grade classes at Elmwood Elementary School participated in “Wreaths Across America” for the first time this December. The program, which honors veterans, describes its mission as: “Remember, Honor, Teach.”
This is carried out in part by coordinating wreath laying ceremonies a specified Saturday in December at Arlington National Cemetery, as well as veterans’ cemeteries and other locations in all 50 states and beyond, the website wreathsacrossamerica.org explains.
Bayer said the meaning of the program resonated with her youngsters.
“I heard about it from a colleague who used to work at the school, and she’d heard about it from another person at O and R (Orange and Rockland Utilities, Inc).” After attending the sixth annual Wreaths Across America Association ceremony at West Point Ceremony earlier this month, she knew she wanted to give back.
“I looked at the website and thought, ‘What can I bring to the classroom?’” and realized the wreaths are made in 10 sections, and this would be a way to teach her class about different character traits.
She incorporated fun into learning by telling her class how the different parts of the wreath embody a veteran’s character, courage, etc. The kids colored the wreaths, wrote the name of a deceased veteran on each, and posted the wreaths around the school. “They went around the perimeter of the cafeteria, and we put a poster on the stage announcing it,” she said.
Bayer said her class was interested in West Point. “I told them what a veteran is and about the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery,” she said.
“It was an emotional ceremony at West Point with a salute, and they made sure Gold Star Mothers each had a special wreath,” Bayer said. It’s the first year that each of the 7004 graves at the West Point Cemetery was adorned by a wreath.
Morrill Worcester started “Wreaths Across America” after a visit to Arlington National Cemetery when he was 12 years old left an impact on him. Years later, in 1992, the now-owner of Worcester Wreath Company of Harrington, Maine, found himself with 5,000 extra wreaths at the end of the holidays.
With help from Maine Senator Olympia Snowe, he made arrangements to place wreaths in one of the cemetery’s older sections that saw few visitors each year.
“His trek from Maine to Washington, DC, grew to placing wreaths at 914 cemeteries during the holidays with help from schools, Rotaries and other groups,” Bayer said.
Her class is excited about its upcoming “Valentines for Veterans” project in February.