COLUMBIA FALLS, Maine and NORMANDY, France — Wreaths Across America (WAA) has been granted permission by the French authorities, on the basis of phytosanitary guarantees provided by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), to on December 1 place 9,387 Maine-made, balsam veterans’ wreaths on the headstones of all U.S. service members laid to rest at Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, located in Colleville-sur-Mer, France.
The cemetery is one of 14 permanent American World War II military cemeteries on foreign soil.
The government of France granted use of the land, in perpetuity. President Dwight D. Eisenhower and French President René Coty dedicated the cemetery on July 18, 1956.
This is the first time WAA – whose mission is to Remember the fallen, Honor those that served, and Teach the next generation the value of Freedom – has sent U.S.-made balsam wreaths to be placed on foreign soil.
The December wreath-laying event is a joint collaboration between the Normandy American Cemetery and American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) and will include ceremonial wreath placements on each of the five D-Day invasion beaches, at Pointe Du Hoc, and include a Canadian Wreath presentation.
“The mission of the American Battle Monuments Commission is to honor the service, achievements and sacrifices of our U.S armed forces in two World Wars. It closely parallels the mission of the Wreaths Across America organization — to Remember, Honor and Teach,” said Scott Desjardins, superintendent, Normandy American Cemetery. “The Normandy American Cemetery is proud and pleased to be the first ABMC cemetery to have been chosen to attempt this important endeavor. As we approach the 75th Anniversary of the D-Day landings, conducted to establish a foothold in Western Europe to free it from tyranny, the Wreaths Across America organization storms the beaches of Normandy to establish a foothold and commemorate the sacrifice made by the men and women who never returned home and are now memorialized in our sites.”
The veterans’ wreaths are being gifted to WAA as a donation from its founder, Morrill Worcester, whose long-time dream has been to one day place a wreath in honor of every U.S. veteran laid to rest, worldwide.
“When I began placing wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery in 1992, I could never have imagined that this idea would impact people around the world the way it has,” Worcester. “To know that WAA will be able to place a wreath for each of those veterans and say their names out loud is truly incredible, and I am so honored to be able to help this effort however I can.”
The transportation of nearly 9,500 fresh balsam veterans’ wreaths from Maine to Normandy requires a massive and coordinated effort, and this complex transport would not be possible without the generous in-kind support of global supply chain management company CEVA Logistics, the transatlantic cargo capacity of United Airlines, and the over-the-road transport provided by Metropolitan Trucking.
“Our goal at Wreaths Across America is to honor and remember all those who served and sacrificed for the freedoms we as Americans enjoy every day,” said Wayne Hanson, Chairman of the Board of Directors, Wreaths Across America. “To be given the opportunity and support needed to advance our mission to Normandy is truly a gift and we intend to continue to move forward until one day, all U.S veterans laid to rest are honored.”
In 1992 in Harrington, Maine, Worcester sought to turn a surplus of 5,000 holiday wreaths into an opportunity to pay tribute to our country’s veterans.
With the help of then Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe, Worcester arranged for the wreaths to be placed at Arlington National Cemetery. The tradition continued on for more than a decade before national attention spurred the start of the 501(c) 3 Wreaths Across America in 2007. Since then, the program has grown in scope, touching the lives of thousands of veterans’ families and volunteers in every state across the country. In 2017 alone, Wreaths Across America and its national network of volunteers laid over 1.5 million veterans’ wreaths at 1,433 locations in all 50 U.S. states, at sea, and abroad.
This year, National Wreaths Across America Day is Saturday, December 15, and at least 1,500 participating locations across the country will host wreath-laying ceremonies, all run by dedicated volunteers.
To learn more about how to sponsor wreaths or volunteer in your own community, please visit www.wreathsacrossamerica.org.
CAPTION FOR PHOTO ABOVE
Former President George W. Bush observes Memorial Day, Monday, May 27, 2002, with a visit to the Normandy American Cemetery in nearby Colleville-sur-Mer, France, home to the graves of 9,387 men and women killed in the World War II liberation of Europe. It was at the nearby beaches of Normandy in northwestern France where Allied forces broke through Hitler’s fortifications 58 years ago to begin the end of World War II. (Associated Press: J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE)