BELFAST — Karen Worcester, cofounder of Wreaths Across America, issued a challenge to the community during a Wreaths luncheon Sunday, Dec. 11, in Belfast: When gathering for the holidays, set an empty place at the table for all of those who can’t make it home.
Worcester told the audience of teamsters, first responders, Gold Star Families, and veterans of the conversation she recently had with her eight-year-old grandson, Miles. The two had talked about how some people aren’t able to be home for the holidays.
“We gathered around to talk about it, and as the Worcester family, when we sit down for Christmas dinner, we’re going to set that empty place,” Worcester said. “And Miles and I, we’d like to challenge others to do the same thing.
“We sat down for Thanksgiving Dinner with 24 people, and they were all ours. But I would have felt bad if one of the kids couldn’t get home from Washington, D.C.,” Worcester said before tearing up. “I can’t even begin to think how I would have felt if one of them couldn’t get home at all.”
More than 83,000 soldiers never returned from war, according to David Sturdevant, Coast Guard veteran and employee of Bank of America, which hosted the lunch. For those soldiers, wreaths cannot be laid in their honor, because they have no graves.
On Dec. 11, an estimated 35 trucks traveled through the Midcoast, along Route 1, toward their Wreaths Across America destination of Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C. The annual event began in Columbia Falls, and there was a stop for a noon luncheon in Belfast before continuing to head south. On Dec. 10, there was a memorial event in Calais, with a trucker's dinner that evening.
On Sunday, at approximately 1:30 p.m., the Wreaths Across America convoy arrived at Lincolnville Beach, where a ceremony was held and four wreaths presented. One was laid at the cannon, while the other three were to be taken to Frohock Bridge to honor members of the Coast Guard, Merchant Marine and Navy lost at sea. There was to be a ceremony at the bridge for laying of the wreaths in the Frohock.
State Representative Erin Herbig, D-Belfast, spoke at the noon luncheon of kissing her one-year-old son goodbye each morning in order to drive to the state capitol. For her, each day’s goodbye is hard, and sometimes she wonders if the daily separation is worth the grief. But then she recalls the fact that many families are separated for far longer.
“While leaving is never easy, I can handle it, because I know the work I’m doing is making a difference for the people of Maine,” Herbig said. “On those really tough mornings I think of you all, the American veterans and their families.”
Ida Parker, of Beals, and her husband became truck drivers of a big rig throughout the United States. During the time on the road, Parker spent more than 200 hours, through 48 states and Canada, crocheting the American Flag that she has now donated to Wreaths Across America.
On the box, Parker wrote: “The pure white stripes are the angels who never made it home. The off-white stripes are for the soldiers wounded, but did make it home.”
Reach Sarah Thompson at email@example.com