By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Marlborough/Northborough – The 26th annual Wreaths Across America (WAA) convoy arrived Dec. 11 for an overnight stay in Marlborough during its weeklong journey from Harrington, Maine, to the Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. Earlier that day, three stops were made in Maine and one in New Hampshire. The large group of WAA participants included volunteers, military veterans, and families of fallen veterans.
That evening, the WAA participants met with local supporters for dinner at the Marlborough Fish & Game Association with a ceremony emceed by executive board member Edward “Dusty” Shead. Dinner was donated by the Italian American War Veterans Post 45 of Marlborough and catered by the Buffet Way.
The color guard of the Vincent F. Picard American Legion Post 234 of Northborough presented the colors as WAA participants recited the Pledge of Allegiance. Navy Capt. Richard Martino offered a prayer.
WAA Chair Wayne Hanson gave remembrance wreaths to Northborough Gold Star family members: Dan and Leslie Arsenault, parents of Army Spc. Brian K. Arsenault, killed in Afghanistan in 2014; and Sheila Cummings and Maureen Sargent, sisters of Army PFC Neil R. Ellsworth, killed in Vietnam in 1967. A wreath will also be given to Paul McAfee, brother of David A. McAfee, killed in Vietnam in 1968. Paul had a previous commitment that evening to attend a holiday party as Santa and didn’t want to disappoint children.
Northborough Selectman William Pantazis accepted a wreath for the town’s World War II / Korean War / Vietnam War Memorial. A wreath will also be placed at the Doughboy Monument in Marlborough.
Wreaths for local ceremonies are provided by an advance team. About 246,000 handmade, balsam wreaths were hauled from Maine to Virginia to be placed at headstones Saturday, Dec. 16, in Arlington. The convoy consisted of about 40 vehicles including a VIP bus for Gold Star and military families, 11 tractor-trailers, SUVs, police cruisers and a motorcycle.
After WAA participants slept overnight at the Holiday Inn & Suites in Marlborough, the convoy hit the road early morning Dec. 12, heading for ceremonial stops at Montachusett Regional Vocational High School in Fitchburg followed by Worcester State College. A large group of Northborough residents gathered in front of the Unitarian Church as well cheering on the convoy as it passed through the town. The convoy makes stops along the route to spread WAA’s mission to remember fallen military veterans, honor those who serve and teach children the value of freedom.