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Saturday, December 12, 2015

Windham Veterans honored with decorated wreaths - By Walter Lunt

Dozens of local veterans, girl and boy scout volunteers fanned out across Arlington Cemetery last Saturday placing decorated Christmas wreaths at the headstones of Windham’s war veterans. The day was sunny with temperatures in the 40s, decidedly different from a year ago when the group wore winter coats and gloves, and had to wipe away snow to read names so not to forget anyone. 

The project, known as Everlasting Gratitude, took place on the same weekend as the Wreaths Across America caravan began its trek across Maine on the way to Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. Both efforts originated in Maine.

Everlasting Gratitude began weeks before when volunteers gathered at Studio Flora flower shop in North Windham to learn how to hand-tie red bows for the 850 wreaths that were placed in over 20 cemeteries across Windham. Floral designer and architect of the program, Libby Sawyer, moved easily among the volunteers delivering crisp, clear instructions on how to create the wreath bows. “Measure to your elbow, drop, make a loop and then pleat it into your hand….”

Over a two to three hour period, dozens of red-ribboned bows were dropped into a large cardboard box, later to be transported to cemeteries where they were twist-tied onto fresh circular wreaths on truck tailgates before distribution.

“It’s important to honor our vets. My dad and boyfriend were veterans, it’s the least I can do-give up a night after what they’ve done for us,” said bow maker Becky Andrews of Windham.

Diana Greenier-whose husband, Mel, is commander of American Legion Post 148 in Windham agreed, “This is a wonderful thing to do because it brings the town together and tells the vets we care.”

Everlasting Gratitude, now in its third year, is sponsored by Studio Flora, Sebago Gardens Landscaping and Little Log Cabin Montessori School, all of Windham. Supporters and volunteers this year included members of the American Legion Post 148 and Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion Auxiliary, Boy Scout Troop 805 and Girl Scout Troop 193. Other volunteers worked at Smith and Chase cemeteries on Saturday morning. Some were daughters of the Civil War and grandsons and granddaughters of Veterans who had recently died.

The cost of the wreath project, including the purchase of wreaths, was over $6,000. Donations can still be made at Studio Flora on Roosevelt Trail near the intersection with Whites Bridge Road. 

Special thanks go out to Roger Timmons of the VFW and Dick McKeen of the Legion post for coordinating the wreath efforts at Smith and Chase Cemeteries. Earlier in the week smaller bands of veterans fanned out to cover the 20 some smaller cemeteries around town with vets entombed,” said Veteran Dave Tanguay. 

Each and every cemetery was visited no matter how remote. 

“There was a sense of pride on the faces of the Boys and Girl scout volunteers as they attached the bows to the wreaths and then thoughtfully placed them on each veteran’s grave,” Tanguay added.

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