Wreaths Across America is a nonprofit organization founded in 2007 by a Maine family that has been in the wreath-making business since 1971. The organization got its legs as a result of the thousands of wreaths the Worcester Wreath company has laid at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia since 1992. The Worcester family formed Wreaths Across America to continue the Arlington effort and expand its reach to groups around the world that wished to do the same.

The mission of the group is powerful: Remember the fallen; Honor those who serve; and Teach our children the value of freedom.

With Veterans Day having just passed, and as we move into the holiday season, Wreaths Across America keeps us focused on the sacrifices our service men and women make for us to preserve our freedoms each and every day. Congress has decreed the second Saturday in December as Wreaths Across America Day for the past five years. This year will be no different, as sites throughout the world lay wreaths on Dec. 14 for their fallen heroes and those active and retired service men and women who continue to lay the foundation for our freedoms.

In central Maine, we will celebrate Wreaths Across America Day at noon, with celebrations in at Togus National Cemetery, Veterans Memorial Cemetery and Maine Veterans Cemetery in Augusta; Pine Grove Cemetery in Waterville; and at Manchester’s new green space and newly flying colors next to the town office. These simultaneous ceremonies will feature a moment of silence and the laying of seven wreaths to honor the Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, Merchant Marine and POW/MIA.

This is the second year Manchester has had a formal ceremony for Wreaths Across America. While last year’s event was small in size, the ceremony was held at the Forks Cemetery and was poignant with a moment of silence and various remarks from a veteran and town selectman after laying the seven ceremonial wreaths. The wreaths remained visible throughout the winter, and I remember having a great sense of pride each time I passed this hallowed spot in town.

This year, we plan to expand the Manchester ceremony as we hope to lay individual wreaths on veterans graves at the Forks Cemetery at 11:30 a.m. before our ceremony at the town office. The ceremony will feature the moment of silence at noon, the pledge of allegiance, opening remarks and the laying of wreaths from seven of Manchester’s own veterans. Our closing remarks also will include a dedication of a new plaque in honor of Manchester’s veterans. With this complete, we will head to the town office for refreshments and remembrances.

Manchester welcomes all town residents to participate in this event, and we hope that if they cannot attend our ceremony that they think about attending an event in Augusta, Waterville, or one of the other 800 locations in the United States and beyond. In addition, individuals can sponsor a wreath to be laid at a local participating cemetery by contacting Wreaths Across America by Monday, being sure to indicate the cemetery where the wreath should be placed. Contact Wreaths Across America or the town office should questions arise.

We in Manchester would take great pride in seeing all of our veterans graves marked by a wreath during the holiday season, and are taking strides along with surrounding central Maine communities to do just that. We hope others will participate with us, and also hope that they will encourage their local communities to sponsor such an event in the future.

Wouldn’t it be great to see wreaths stretched from town to town in central Maine so we all may remember those who have served for us, honor their sacrifice and teach our children about duty, pride and freedom.

Jeremy Pare is a selectman in Manchester.

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