By Jeff Slovin, Contributing Writer/Photographer
Northborough – The Wreaths Across America (WAA) convoy stopped at the Vincent F. Picard American Legion Post 234 in Northborough Dec. 13 for a brief ceremony on its way to Arlington National Cemetery, in Arlington County, Va. This will be the 25th year that remembrance wreaths will be placed at the cemetery, the final resting place of many of America’s veterans. The wreath tradition was started in 1992 by Maine businessman Morrill Worcester and the Worcester Wreath Company.
The wreath truck convoy starts in Harrington, Maine, travelling down the East Coast to Arlington, making numerous stops at schools, monuments and veterans homes, to give the group an opportunity to promote its mission: Remember, Honor, Teach. Northborough is one of only two stops the convoy is making in Massachusetts.
Several months ago, WAA contacted Adam Costello, director of veterans’ services for the Central Massachusetts Veterans Service District and commander of the Vincent F. Picard American Legion Post 234 in Northborough, looking for places in Massachusetts to stop.
They needed a place that could accommodate 21 tractor trailers, a bus, and a large number of private and police escort vehicles. Most of the large potential parking areas, such as shopping plazas and schools, wouldn’t be able to accommodate them due to the shopping season or the fact that schools are in session, so it was a difficult logistical problem. The Vincent F. Picard American Legion Post 234 in Northborough had the indoor space that was needed, and could be used in conjunction with Zecco’s mostly empty lot across the street to ensure adequate parking was available.
During the brief ceremony, Costello, along with Wayne Hanson, chair of Wreaths Across America and Candy Martin, national president of American Gold Star Mothers, (and a U.S. Army veteran), addressed those that had gathered.
Among those present were Dan, Leslie, and Lindsey Arsenault, the father, mother, and sister of Army Specialist Brian K. Arsenault, a soldier from Northborough who was killed in action in Ghazni, Afghanistan, Sept. 4, 2014. Tracy Vaillancourt, the mother of Brian Moquin, Jr., from Worcester, was also present. Her son was killed in Afghanistan on May 5, 2006 in a helicopter crash while searching for al-Qaeda and Taliban militants.
“I appreciate so much what you do, to keep the memories of these folks, and doing something for them after what they did for us, you can’t put those feelings into words. I am really thankful for it,” said Costello as he was addressing those who had gathered, speaking about the work WAA is doing.
WAA’s mission is carried out in part by coordinating wreath laying ceremonies at Arlington, as well as at veterans’ cemeteries and other locations in all 50 states and beyond. In 2015, nearly 70,000 volunteers at Arlington, and close to a million volunteers participated at 1,108 locations nationwide, placed 901,000 remembrance wreaths in total across the country, 240,815 of which were at Arlington National Cemetery. This year, WAA is planning events in over 1,200 locations.
For more information, to sponsor wreaths or to sign up to volunteer, visit www.WreathsAcrossAmerica.org.