“The city and the community have always been good to us. But when the covid-19 pandemic hit, we had to stop all of our fundraising and make quick decisions depending on what the government would allow us to do,” said Michael Wanik, a member of the Disabled American Veterans Chapter in New Britain and a member on the Executive Committee of Wreaths Across America. “This year we hope to start earlier to get things going again.”
Wreaths Across America is a nationally renowned movement to honor military service and sacrifice, which places millions of holiday wreaths annually on veteran gravesites across the nation.
The movement had humble beginnings in 1992, with what started as a few wreaths to honor veterans at Arlington National Cemetery begun by Maine businessman Morrill Worcester, that turned into a nationally recognized nonprofit organization in 2007. Its mission, Remember, Honor, Teach, is carried out in part by coordinating wreath-laying ceremonies at Arlington and at veterans cemeteries and other locations in all 50 states.
In 2008, Congress unanimously approved to designate Dec. 13 as “Wreaths Across America Day,” according to the organization. The annual wreath-laying ceremony is usually held on the second or third Saturday of December.
The Wreaths Across America New Britain project is managed by the Disabled American Veterans and Hardware City Chapter 8, in cooperation with the city and with the assistance of a planning committee of volunteers from Greater New Britain’s business, non-profit and veterans service organization communities.
Last December, the organization held a virtual ceremony and broadcasted via Facebook Live from Fairview Cemetery. Moving forward with what would be the fourth ceremony at the site, city officials and organizers are hoping to host a safe in person ceremony this year.
Mayor Erin Stewart, along with Wreath Across American members, will be inviting local community leaders and business owners to help drive the 2021 Wreaths Across America fundraising event that is set for September. Joining the spearheading efforts include Al Parlow of EnJet Aero in New Britain and Dorothy Weber of Richards Machine in Newington.
“The annual Wreaths Across America event brings the community together to honor those who served and made the ultimate sacrifice,” said Stewart. “Honoring those soldiers who are now laid to rest in Fairview Cemetery is an important recognition of the significant contribution they made to defending our freedoms.”
Parlow, a veteran, said he feels strongly about remembering those who sacrificed for the country to ensure the country’s way of life.
“As an EnJet Aero employee, I am proud that our firm supports this important annual project,” he said.
Weber, who owns Richards Machine with her sister, said they have always believed in supporting the military and educating the youth about the country’s history.
“It’s an honor for us to be a part of this and we hope to get other businesses involved,” she said. “It’s important to teach kids why we have the freedom that we enjoy, about the amazing country that we live in, and to respect and honor veterans who sacrificed so much for that freedom.”
The DAV and its fellow New Britain based military and other service organizations have raised the majority of the funds in the past by having large pasta dinners. Unlike the two prior Veterans of Foreign Wars Hall-based May dinners, this year’s event is being planned for Sept. 15 in New Britain.
Proper covid-19 guidelines will be employed. However, the event will also expand to allow diners to eat outside in the picnic grove, or grab meals to go, according to event organizers.
For more information on the local effort, follow the Wreaths Across America New Britain project on
Facebook at www.facebook.com/wreathsfornewbritain.