Ceremony will take place at Oxford Cemetery on Saturday
By Kathleen Brady Shea, Managing Editor, The Times
Ask yourself what your life would be like were it not for the many veterans who have served the U.S.: That’s the premise behind the Wreaths Across America program.
Started quietly in 1992 when the owner of a Maine wreath company found himself with a surplus and sent the decorations to Arlington National Cemetery, the initiative has expanded and will be observed again in Chester County on Saturday, Dec. 14, at noon. The Oxford Cemetery on Rt. 10 will be the site of one of more than 850 ceremonies nationwide.
As established by Morrill Worchester, the owner of the Worcester Wreath Company, the event recognizes the importance of veterans during the Christmas season by placing wreaths on the graves of those who have served their country. The wreaths are created by volunteers with 10 bouquets of balsam, each of which symbolizes the veterans’ characteristics, such as integrity and strength. A red bow serves as a testament to their ultimate sacrifice.
In Chester County, David Hamilton of Lincoln University and Laura Sperratore of Cochranville teamed up with Harry McKinney of the Chester County Sheriff’s Office to organize this year’s wreath project. Chester County Sheriff Carolyn “Bunny” Welsh, State Rep. John Lawrence, and Paul Andriole, director of Chester County’s Veterans Affairs, will attend and make brief remarks.
McKinney said the Oxford Cemetery is an evocative venue because the 1,104 veterans interred there represent every U.S. war and conflict and include recipients of every available medal. For example, twenty-two Revolutionary War soldiers were laid to rest as well as 467 from World War II and one from the Persian Gulf War. “It should be a very moving and impressive event,” said Welsh.
Representatives from each branch of the service will participate in the ceremony, McKinney said, adding that for the first time since the local observance began several years ago, a wreath will be placed on every veteran’s grave. Weather permitting, a couple of veterans plan to do a fly-over, he said.
Members of the Oxford American Legion Roy W. Gibson Post 535 sponsored the event. McKinney said numerous other donors, agencies, and community groups also contributed to ensure that the veterans all received the recognition they deserve.
The wreaths will be placed on trucks from A. Duie Pyle and escorted to the cemetery by the Chester County Sheriff’s Office. The trucks will travel on Old Baltimore Pike to Oxford Borough and proceed on Rt. 10, planning to arrive at the cemetery at 9 a.m. so volunteers can make preparations for the noon ceremony, which will include bagpipes, a 21-gun salute, and patriotic songs.
Community members interested in attending should assemble at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church, 203 Church Road, Oxford, at 11:30 a.m. At 11:45, the group will proceed to the gates of the Oxford Cemetery for the ceremony. A moment of silence will be held at noon when the first of 28,000 wreaths will be laid in Arlington National Cemetery and other sites nationwide.
For more information on the national movement, visit www.WreathsAcrossAmerica.org.