BANGOR, Maine — This annual Wreaths Across America convoy from Harrington to Arlington National Cemetery started Saturday with sunrise ceremonies at Quoddy Head State Park and the U.S.-Canada border.
As it makes its way to Arlington National Cemetery, the convoy carrying Maine-made Christmas wreaths will stop at schools, American Legion halls, churches, veterans’ homes and elsewhere in its annual pilgrimage to honor veterans, military personnel and their families during the holidays.
Grand marshal for this year’s procession is Candy Martin, national president of American Gold Star Mothers and a U.S. Army veteran who retired as a chief warrant officer after a 38-year military career. She and her husband, Ed, also a retired Army veteran, now live in Texas.
Martin became a Gold Star Mother in 2007, when her only son, Army 1st. Lt. Thomas Martin, was killed in Iraq in October 2007. Through her work with the military mothers’ service organization, Martin became involved in Wreaths Across America and friends with its founder, Morrill Worcester of Worcester Wreath Co., and his wife, Karen.
Martin said Saturday that she is honored to have been chosen.
“My first thought was ‘Why me?’ because I believe that what I do is bigger than me. I believe that there’s a purpose, we’re all given a purpose. I continually redefined my purpose after Tom was killed in trying to find ways to make a difference,” she said.
Martin’s friendship with the Worcesters might have led to this year’s theme: Say Their Names.
“One of the things I said to Karen [Worcester] was since this war started back in 2001, I would tap into the Department of Defence news links every few days or so and read the names of the fallen, believing that if someone had read their names they were not forgotten, at least for that day. So it’s kind of a ‘God wink’ that I ended up being the grand marshal,” she said.
Among Saturday’s highlights for Martin was the HART — Honoring Allies and Remembering Together — ceremony on the international bridge between Calais and St. Stephen, New Brunswick.
On the bridge, the group met with Canadian military families, including two women who have served as National Memorial (Silver) Cross Mothers, one of which is chosen each year by the Royal Canadian Legion to represent the mothers of Canada at the National Remembrance Day Ceremony in Ottawa on Nov. 11.
“Their sons were killed in Afghanistan, so it’s not only the United States that is losing soldiers,” she said. “It’s also the allies.”
The Wreaths Across America convoy is scheduled to arrive at Arlington National Cemetery Saturday, Dec. 17, according to its online itinerary.