Dates Of Visits: December 23 & 29, 2018
Location: Veterans Memorial Cemetery, 1309 Main St, Agawam, MA (4 miles southwest of Springfield, MA and 26 miles north of Hartford, CT)
Hours: The cemetery is open everyday from dawn until dusk. The annual wreath ceremony takes place the third Saturday in December. The wreaths will be at the cemeteries until Jan. 15
Parking: Visitors can park on the side of the road in the cemetery and there is a parking area on the upper level of the cemetery. There may also be limited street parking near the cemetery.
Handicapped Accessible: Yes
Highlights: 7,500 wreaths adorn the headstones of the graves at the military cemetery
Websites: Wreaths Across America
It all started with one man and his wreaths.
In 1992, Morril Worcester, owner of Worcester Wreath Company and resident of Harrington, Maine, noticed he had a surplus of wreaths after the holiday season. Thinking back to his visit to Arlington National Cemetery when he was a young boy, Morril decided to donate his surplus of wreaths to the cemetery. With the help of then Maine Senator Olympia Snowe, Worcester sent his wreath surplus to Arlington Cemetery. Special attention was given to lay wreaths at graves that seemed to get the least amount of visitors.
Over time, this cause grew. Volunteers offered to transport the wreaths to other cemeteries from Maine to Virginia. Then, in 2005, things changed.
After a photo of the graves at Arlington adorned with wreaths and covered in snow went viral in 2005, requests to help and expand this ceremony to all of the states poured in. People offered to distribute and lay the wreaths at the cemetery, decorate the wreaths and help in many other ways.
Through the years, the cause has grown to include every veteran from every branch of the service including veterans who were prisoners of war and missing in action.
Now, Wreaths Across America conducts wreath laying ceremonies at more than 1,400 cemeteries, including Arlington National Cemetery, in all 50 U.S. states, at sea and abroad. Veterans from all wars and conflicts the U.S. has been involved in are honored with a wreath. While many, if not all, of the veterans cemeteries have wreath laying ceremonies conducted in them, they are not the only cemeteries where wreaths are laid. Public cemeteries also have wreaths laid at the graves of veterans. Wherever a veteran has been laid to rest you will find a wreath.
The goal of the Wreaths Across America group is to “remember, honor and teach” others throughout the year about the sacrifices of our veterans. One way to do this is to sponsor a wreath. The money from sponsoring a wreath is used for the wreath laying ceremony and the cost of transporting the wreaths.
One of the cemeteries where a wreath laying was conducted is the Agawam Veterans Memorial Cemetery. Over 7,500 wreaths were laid at the cemetery.
I stopped by Agawam Veterans Memorial Cemetery to view and photograph some of the wreaths that have been laid by each veterans’ grave. Agawam is one of three Veterans Memorial Cemeteries in Massachusetts. The other two are in Bourne, which is a naational memorial cemetery, and Winchendon which, like Agawam, is a state memorial cemetery.
It was bittersweet to see the care and honor given to all of the veterans’ graves at the cemetery. The wreaths will be at each of the headstones until Wreath Clean Up Day on January 15.
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