ARLINGTON, Va. (Army News Service, Dec. 18, 2007) - Blustery weather did not deter 2,000 volunteers from showing up early on a Saturday to lay some 10,000 wreaths on graves in Arlington National Cemetery.

Worcester Wreath Company, a supplier to L.L. Bean in Maine, had an excess of wreaths in 1992 and being a frugal New Englander, Merrill Worcester sought a productive solution.

Mr. Worcester, 57, remembered visiting Arlington National Cemetery as a 12-year old after he won a trip from the Bangor Daily News for signing up the most new subscribers. So Worcester delivered 5,000 wreaths to the cemetery and the local State of Maine Society helped lay them on the graves.

"Last year we had 700 volunteers," Worcester said. "It's not a race. Stop and read the marker and look at the age..."

Wayne Hanson of the society addressed the crowd this year in front the cemetery's McClellan Arch: "We gather here to place 10,000 wreaths on headstones to remember the fallen," he said. "To honor those who serve and teach children to accord the proper respect."

Each year cemetery superintendant John Metzler chooses a section to be decorated. He usually selects an older section since those graves are less likely to be visited.

An entire section is draped with the balsam rings adorned with pine cones, berries and red velvet bows.

Don Golis, 74, of Ocean View, Del., came to Washington Saturday with a group of fellow VFW members.

"The last time I was in Washington was when we celebrated the end of the Korean War," the veteran said. "We saw it in the papers and on the news. Six of us came down."

Carol Dasenbrook of Arlington came in part to honor her father, a Vietnam veteran.
"They gave the ultimate sacrifice," she said. "It's the least we could do. I could never join the military and do what they do."

Christina Cuesta and her husband Juan brought their children along for a good reason.

"To teach them about the history of the nation and to take advantage of the special events," she said.

Patricia Mosher of Arlington, a local member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, heard about the wreaths last year.

"It's impressive," she said. "It's overwhelming. I'm just amazed."

Volunteers will also be needed to pick up the 10,000 wreaths after the holidays. The expected date is Feb. 2.

(Dennis Ryan writes for the Pentagram newspaper at Fort Myer, Va.)