Hello. This is Governor, Paul LePage.
Several weeks ago, I used my radio address to talk about the compassion of Maine people and their great generosity.
The heart of Maine beats especially strong this time of year, as many drop a dollar in a red Salvation Army kettles or a holiday ham at a local food pantry. Others –including those who have little profit to part with– donate slightly worn coats or give of their time to serve meals at a shelter or shovel snow for a senior.
But perhaps our country’s most humbling show of heart at the holidays starts right here in Maine.
For the past 20 years, a caravan of volunteers makes its way from Washington County to Washington D.C. to lay thousands of wreaths on the graves of America’s heroes at Arlington National Cemetery. They are led by Morrill and Karen Worcester who own Worcester Wreath in Harrington.
It has become an annual pilgrimage for dozens of Maine people, Gold Star families, the Patriot Guard Riders and the Maine State Police. In each state along the way, stops are made for wreath-laying ceremonies at memorials, visits at veteran’s homes and education programs at schools.
Aboard one of the eight tractor trailers heading south today is a woman who has become a leading voice in raising awareness and appreciation of our military and veterans. She’s known by me and those on the road as Ann (Annabanana). And she’s your First Lady.
Ann, I am so proud that you’ve pledged to continue participating each year that I am Governor. Those of you who make this journey show our nation what it means to be from Maine. And I look forward to joining you at Arlington National Cemetery next week for the wreath layings.
Here is what Ann has to say about Wreaths Across America:
Thank you, Paul.
Last year’s Wreaths Across America was a trip of a lifetime.
I was touched by the schoolchildren who stood in the driving cold rain to greet us with cheers of U-S-A, U-S-A. The handshakes that turned to hugs from veterans. And I will never forget Candy, a Gold Star mother, who was also on the trip to Arlington. After our wreath ceremony in the chapel at WestPoint, a small group of us accompanied her to a row of graves. There she pointed to one of the gravestones and introduced us to her son Thomas. We held hands and said a prayer and then I asked her how she’d made the difficult decision to leave her son at West Point, when she lived in Texas.
“Ann, it was very easy,” she told me. “He’s with all his buddies, and he died doing what he loved to do.”
Our veterans, military members and their families are what make me most proud to be an American. This Maine-led commemorative convoy, now known as the world’s largest veteran’s parade, makes me proud to call the state home.
This year alone, Paul, myself, our two children and more than 15,000 other volunteers will lay more than 100-thousand wreaths at Arlington. And across this great country, more headstones and the heroes they honor will be remembered this holiday season with wreaths placed through this program.
The message of our mission is a meaningful one. REMEMBER the fallen. HONOR those that serve and their families and TEACH our children the value of freedom.
As we celebrate the holiday, please remember the true spirit of the season, which shines in Wreaths Across America and those it pays tribute to. It is not just giving a gift, but giving of ourselves.
Happy holidays from our family to yours. And God bless our troops, God bless the great State of Maine, and God bless the United States of America.