Wreaths Across America honors veterans

By Erica Eckart

Every year, members from Local 249 are honored to participate in the Wreaths Across America ceremonies. This year the Motorcycle Committee, along with the Veterans Committee, donated 5,000 dollars for wreaths to be placed at Terrace Park, a national Wreaths Across America cemetery where many veterans were laid to rest.

“The Motorcycle Committee has been doing this for five years and the Veterans committee for three years now,’’ said Josh Curtis, Chairman of the
Motorcycle Committee. “Several UAW members and volunteers show up on these bitter cold days to participate in the ceremony and then proudly place wreaths on the graves of our fallen soldiers.”

One of the volunteers, Jim Eckart, husband of Erica Eckart, Chairperson of the Member to Member Committee, had this to say about his first experience: “This has to be one of the most honorable and memorable events that I have had the opportunity to participate in, it is one thing to hear about these types of events, but participating brings a whole other level of gratitude for the amazing things that Local 249 does for our community. It was bitterly cold, and everyone was so happy to be there, and I was honored to be a part of it and look forward to next year.”

Here’s a little backstory to how Wreaths Across America got started: Morrill Worcester, owner of Worcester wreath company of Harrington, Maine, was a 12-year-old paper boy for the Bangor Daily News when he won a trip to Washington D.C. His first trip to our nation’s capital was one he would never forget. While there he visited the Arlington National Cemetery which was formally established on June 15, 1864, which now is a sprawling 639 Acres and the resting place of over 400,000 fallen soldiers including the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

The experience made an impression on young Morril and followed him throughout his life and successful career, reminding him that his good fortune was due, in large part, to the values of this nation and the Veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice for their Country. Fast forward to 1992, Worcester wreaths found themselves with a surplus of wreaths nearing the end of the holiday season. Remembering his boyhood experience at Arlington, Morril Worsester realized he had an opportunity to honor our country’s veterans. With the aid of a Maine senator, arrangements were made for wreaths to be placed in one of the older sections of the cemetery.

This ultimately grew into a nonprofit organization called Wreaths Across America that has continued to expand all over the country.

“This year’s event was a little more special for us at Local 249,” said David Cox, recording secretary of the Veterans Committee and Region 4 Veterans Missouri State Chair. “One of our own Local 249 members, Courtney Anchors, was there to help honor her father and grandfather who were both laid to rest in that very cemetery. I was fortunate enough to have the honor of passing the wreaths to Courtney to place on each one of their graves. We gave each one a moment of silence and a salute to honor them and all they have done. It was very emotional and humbling to be a part of that.”

“This was my third year participating in this event with the Motorcycle and Veterans Committees,” said Jay Bosler, Chairman of the Cap Committee and Local 249’s Sergeant at Arms. “All of the volunteers for the event laid out 1,500 wreaths for these American heroes. I think I can speak for Local 249 volunteers and say it was our honor and privilege to be a part of this awesome celebration!”

Local 249’s Motorcycle and Veterans committees as well as the volunteers, take pride in honoring our fallen soldiers every year with a goal to ultimately increase the wreaths we can place every year. For more information on how you can participate, reach out to the committees, or contact the hall to sign up. If you would like to learn more about the history of this event, visit Wreathsacrossamerica.org. Special thanks to everyone that helps to make this event a success.