By Berta Mexidor
JACKSON – The Assembly 554 of the Knights of Columbus, Bishop R.O. Gerow, will again be sponsoring the Wreaths Across America program (WAA) this year.
Steve Miller, PFN says the Knights will be selling wreaths made from live greenery to be placed on veteran graves during the Christmas season and that sales have already begun.
The cost of a wreath to honor brave men and women who have served the U.S. is only $15 and can be purchased at kofc554.org through Nov. 20. Wreaths may be purchased for an unspecified veteran. These will be placed on veteran graves at the Clinton Cemetery and Cedar Grove Cemetery in Clinton on Dec. 17 at 12 p.m.
Wreaths can also be purchased for a specific veteran family member or friend and will be available for pick-up at Holy Savior Church (714 Lindale St., Clinton) on Dec. 17 at 3 p.m.
The Wreaths Across America program honors veterans from the Revolutionary War to present day conflicts and come from all backgrounds. It also boasts over 3,400 participating locations around the country.
Wreaths Across America is a national program with humble beginnings. In 1992 Morrill Worcester, owner of Worcester Wreath Company of Harrington, Maine found himself with a surplus of wreaths nearing the end of the holiday season and realized he had an opportunity to honor our county’s veterans. With the help of former Maine Senator Olympia Snowe, Morrill arranged for the wreaths to be place at Arlington National Cemetery in one of the older sections which had been receiving fewer visitors with each passing year.
This act of generosity became an annual tribute that went on quietly for several years each December, led by Morrill and his family until 2005, when a photo of the stones at Arlington adorned with wreaths and covered in snow, circulated around the internet and it began to grow.
In 2020, nearly 1.8 million veteran wreaths were placed at more than 2,500 participating locations. More than two million volunteers nationwide joined in these efforts. The National WAA program is held annual on the second or third Saturday of December.
“The WAA program was brought to the Assembly’s attention by Joe Blake in the fall of 2020. Joe, a past Faithful Navigator of 554 and a Vietnam veteran, thought it would be a good patriotic program for the assembly and worth looking into,” said Miller.
After researching the WAA program, the Assembly realized with so little time and Covid restrictions preventing in-person sales the most they could do in 2020 would be to rely on membership to purchase wreaths and place them at a Crystal Springs cemetery, which had been adopted by a local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
In July of 2021 the Assembly filed the necessary paperwork with the WAA’s organization and adopted the Clinton Cemetery located at 500 East College Street, where the Assembly had placed American flags for several years in observance of Veterans Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day and had identified 170 veteran gravesites, shared Miller.
“Our total wreath sales exceeded our expectations, and 250 wreaths were sold through our various purchase options,” said Miller. “Of the 250 wreaths purchased 30 wreaths were sold to individuals for placement on veteran gravesites of family members or friends at other cemetery locations rather than the Assembly’s adopted cemetery.”
On Dec. 18, 2021, the Assembly members along with women from Clinton’s local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, and local Scouts took part in a Wreaths Across America Day Ceremony.
This year, the Knights assembly hopes to exceed those totals. For more information or to purchase a wreath, visit kofc554.org.
(Steve Miller, PFN, Bishop R.O. Gerow Assembly 554 collaborated with this story. For more information about the national WWA program, visit https://www.wreathsacrossamerica.org/.)
Editor’s note: Home with Heroes in Natchez is also sponsoring the Wreaths Across America Program. Wreathes will be places at the Natchez National, Greenlawn Memorial Park and Vidalia Cemetery on Dec. 17. For more information visit: homewithheroes.org.