TOGUS — Nothing disturbed the peaceful rank and file of white headstones at the west section of Togus National Cemetery at 11 a.m. Saturday.

Then came vehicles full of people and trucks laden with boxes of wreaths.

Minutes later green fir wreaths with red ribbons adorned the graves of veterans who served as far back as the Civil War.

The stones were for soldiers from Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and elsewhere.

One soldier, David J. Scannel, was a private in the U.S. Marine Corps when he was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in the Boxer Rebellion in China. His stone has an outline of the medal engraved on it. He is the only Medal of Honor recipient buried at Togus.

Those placing the wreaths were mostly from Maine, and some of them were veterans themselves, including Bertrand Dyer, 80, of New Portland, accompanied by his wife, Alyce. As a sergeant first class in the U.S. Army from 1950 to 1970, he served in Iceland, Italy, Korea, California and Vietnam.

Carrying a wreath with the same arm he gripped a cane, Dyer said, “I was one of the lucky ones.”

He took a photo of his wife placing a wreath on a grave, and then she took a photo of him.

Younger wreath-layers included Dominique Andrews, 11, of South China. “I just want to help all the people,” she said.

Shawn Ellis and Isaiah Hooper, Boy Scouts with Troop 605 of Winthrop, helped place the wreaths, as did Augusta Postmaster Dale Nunn.

Nunn, a U.S. Army veteran, had brought a table, some envelopes, some stamps and a special hand cancellation “Remember, Honor, Teach” marking the occasion of the wreath-laying.

Scott Bernier of Augusta brought his Christmas cards, including ones marked air mail and addressed to people in the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada, for the special cancellation.

Nunn said so far 30 people had mailed envelopes to the Augusta post office seeking the cancellation. They will be available up to 30 days after the event.

“It’s quite rare to have a hand-cancelation,” he said

This is the 20th year that Morrill Worcester, owner of Worcester Wreath Company in Harrington, donated wreaths for what is now known as National Wreaths Across America Day.

The Patriot Guard Riders escorted a convoy this past week that brought the Maine-made wreaths to Arlington National Cemetery.

Mike Edgecomb, one of the Patriot Guard Riders, directed the operation at Togus, moving people out of the way to allow a Worcester truck to back into the cemetery road so the cardboard boxes of wreaths could be unloaded.

Richard Theberge, a Togus employee who lives in West Gardiner, put a wreath on the headstone of Edw’d Cunniff, of the U.S. Navy, who died in 1918, at the request of a descendent of Cunniff’s who lives in Oregon.

A total of 6,000 wreaths were laid Saturday in the Augusta area, including Togus and both Maine Veterans Memorial Cemeteries.

 

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

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