Wreaths Across America convoy departs in cold temperatures, but with warm love

As Wreaths Across America ceremonies take place at the Maine Coast Mall in Ellsworth, Maine on Sunday, December 11, an appropriately themed tractor-trailer from Gully Transportation of Quincy, Illinois is parked nearby. (Brian Swartz)

The wreaths headed to adorn veterans’ graves across the United States on Saturday, December 17 shipped out this past weekend with a whole lot of love from Maine.

The 2022 Wreaths Across America convoy traveling to Arlington National Cemetery and points far beyond started in far eastern Maine with a 6:30 a.m. sunrise service at West Quoddy Head Lighthouse in Lubec on Saturday, December 16. Under police escort, the convoy then traveled up to Calais on the St. Croix River and Canadian border for a ceremony honoring American and Canadian veterans.

Saturday was clear and cold up here by the North Pole. Sunday dawned sunny and 13 degrees away from the shore, cloudy and no warmer along the shore. Again escorted by police, the Wreaths Across America convoy left Narraguagus High School in Harrington and headed west on Route 1 and the day’s first official WAA ceremony, to be held in Ellsworth.

Vietnam veteran Wayne Hanson, chairman of the Wreaths Across America board, speaks during the WWA program held outside the Maine Coast Mall in Ellsworth on December 11. (BS)

Multiple police agencies ran escort, and WAA officials claimed the convoy stretched 6.5 miles long. Big rigs and police vehicles alike started pulling into the Maine Coast Mall’s parking lot in Ellsworth slightly before 9 a.m. and kept coming and coming and coming. Not all wreath-laden tractor-trailers stopped; many rolled north to Brewer (about 25 miles away) to connect with Interstate 395 and points south.

The WAA ceremony at Ellsworth took place outdoors, and when I say it was cold, I mean “wicked” cold, to quote a quaint Maine phrase. We use “wicked” as an adjective, as in “that dessert was wicked good” (delicious) or in “that was a wicked big bear” (a really big, big bear).

Ten tractor-trailers forming part of the Wreaths Across America convoy traveling to Arlington National Cemetery are parked hub to hub next to the Maine Coast Mall in Ellsworth on Sunday morning, December 11. Ten more tractor-trailers were parked right behind this row. (BS)

So “wicked” cold means it was cold, even by Maine standards: 18 degrees at 9 a.m., with a wicked northwesterly breeze blowing nothing but penetrating cold across the mall parking lot. Nonetheless, a few hundred people gathered for the WAA ceremony honoring WWII and Vietnam veterans. As far as our veterans are concerned, we love ’em, and that love and respect showed during the approximately 30-minute ceremony.

These seven law-enforcement vehicles parked at the Maine Coast Mall in Ellsworth, Maine were a small representation of the many similar vehicles that are escorting the Wreaths Across America convoy to Arlington National Cemetery this week. (BS)

And the big rigs: Tractor-trailers from companies like Tyson, Wal-Mart, Gully Transportation out of Quincy, Illinois, and several out-of-state and in-state motor carriers bordered the ceremony on the south. I counted at least 35 tractor-trailers, including two rows of ten rigs each parked hub to hub and tractor nose to trailer door in an adjacent lot. Almost every trailer sported Wreaths Across America and veteran-honoring artwork, and a few tractors did, too.

About an equal number of police vehicles bordered the ceremony site on the east and north. Some Maine police departments have committed officers and cruisers to escort the convoy all the way to Arlington. Other law-enforcement agencies will join the escort as the convoy winds its way south to Washington, D.C., where a ceremony will be held on the National Mall on Friday, December 16.

The Arlington convoy started leaving the Maine Coast Mall about 10:30 a.m., rolled west on Route 1 to Belfast, and then took Route 3 to connect with I-95 in Augusta. Additional Sunday ceremonies took place in South China and Portland, our largest city.

For those ECWers planning to lay wreaths on veterans’ graves in the Winchester (Va.) National Cemetery, be rest assured that those wreaths left Maine naturally cooled and in excellent condition and with lots of love. The weather prognosticators are calling for a nor’easter to hit us Friday night into Saturday; may your temperatures in Virginia be well above freezing as you distribute Maine-made wreaths to honor our nation’s Civil War heroes!

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