Wreaths Across America makes its way into West Point
December 13, 2011
WEST POINT, N.Y. (Dec. 13, 2011) -- The national Wreaths Across America campaign made two stops at West Point, first laying about 1,750 wreaths on headstones throughout the cemetery and later at a special ceremony inside the Old Cadet Chapel.
On Dec. 3, more than 100 participants, from across New York and Pennsylvania, gathered at West Point Cemetery to distribute the holiday wreaths. Members of the West Point Track team were among the academy volunteers. On Dec. 6, a ceremony was held at the Old Cadet Chapel including the Wreaths Across America Caravan, Gold Star Mothers and Wives, West Point leadership and other guests.
The Wreaths Across America program began in 1992 when founder Morrill Worcester, a wreath company owner, joined a dozen others in honoring the nation's veterans by placing 5,000 wreaths on headstones at Arlington National Cemetery. Twenty years later, the wreath-laying effort continues across the country at veterans' cemeteries and monuments.
Morrill's wife, Karen Worcester, spoke at the ceremony inside the Old Cadet Chapel where a wreath was placed at the altar by West Point Superintendent Lt. Gen. David H. Huntoon Jr. and Command Sgt. Maj. Todd Burnett.
"It's truly humbling to be here, and I'm a little overwhelmed," Worcester, the WAA executive director, said.
Huntoon thanked Worcester for her efforts in recognizing the nation's military heroes and educating people about their service. He said while serving as the 3rd Infantry Regiment commander in 1995, he witnessed the impact of the wreath-laying program at Arlington National Cemetery.
"Today we acknowledge not only their visit to this historic cemetery but your contribution to over 200 cemeteries around the United States, 24 veteran cemeteries around the world," Huntoon said. "Morrill Worcester had said, 'I made it my business never to forget' and here at West Point we believe the same thing."
West Point contributed to the program last year when about a half-dozen participants placed more than 100 wreaths at the West Point Cemetery, according to Dr. Todd Crowder.
Crowder, an associate professor in the Department of Physical Education, learned about the program through a mother whose son he coached on the West Point Track team. Inspired by the mission of the nonprofit organization, they established West Point as a registered cemetery.
"After reading about Morrill Worcester and his commitment, passion and mission concerning his goal of 'Remember, Honor, Teach,' I believed West Point and Wreaths Across America was a synergistic fit," Crowder said.
Crowder was grateful for the cadets who contributed their time to volunteer at the WAA event.
"These cadets volunteered their time to come out and pay tribute to members of the West Point community buried at the cemetery, further demonstrating the link of 'Duty, Honor, Country' and 'Remember, Honor, Teach,'" Crowder said.
Seeing the wreaths grow here from triple to quadruple digits says a lot about the giving nature of so many people, Crowder said.
"It really is a tribute to the spirit of so many wonderful people who have on their own, organized groups, schools and individuals, to purchase wreaths that can then be presented and ceremonially placed at West Point for our ceremony," he said.
Prior to the Army-Navy football game on Saturday, 16 West Point cadets and 16 midshipmen from the U.S. Naval Academy placed wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery. Thousands of volunteers participated that day in laying the red-bowed wreaths at the gravesites of about 90,000 veterans.
To learn more about the program and how to participate in future events, visit www.wreathsacrossamerica.org/.