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Throughout America and here in Carroll County, community members are planning to thank veterans who have fought to preserve our rights by placing wreaths on graves, all on the same date and time: noon on Dec. 14.

Ceremonies like this continue a tradition that began at Arlington National Cemetery in 2007. Morrill Worcester, owner of Worcester Wreath Company in Maine, founded Wreaths Across America to donate wreaths to cemeteries across the nation. It’s a simple mission: to remember, honor and teach.

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According to Donna Babylon, Babylon Vault has 15 cemeteries participating this year.

“Our company took it on as a community outreach program,” she said. “We’ve been in the community 90 years now, a family-owned business. I wanted to do something that we could embrace as a company.”

Mel Blizzard of Deer Park United Methodist said that, as a board member for the Community Foundation of Carroll County, he spread the word. At that time, they were working on the renovation of Ellsworth Cemetery, which was established in 1876 by six African-American Army veterans.

Audrey Cimino, executive director of the Community Foundation, said the Knights of Columbus of St. Bartholomew’s Catholic Church have been caring for Ellsworth Cemetery for the past several years. When she told them about Wreaths Across America, they were all in. “Now, we have a black battalion flag that we’ll have there, from the Civil War,” she said excitedly. One of the guys found it online.”

Cimino said they could only identify the names of 15 of their veterans and you need all the information to get wreaths, so only 15 will arrive, plus seven ceremonial wreaths.

According to Blizzard, wreaths are sponsored by individuals at a cost of $15 each. Then, Wreaths Across America delivers them.

“Wreaths Across America reaches out to trucking companies, whose drivers volunteer their time to go to Maine to get the wreaths and drive them to the locations where these events are being held. The wreaths are made in Maine with fresh greens and big bows.”

Blizzard spoke about the 153 veterans in the Deer Park church cemetery and why they do it.

“We will be remembering our fallen U.S. veterans, honoring those who serve, and teaching our children the value of freedom,” he said, adding that the seven additional ceremonial wreathes that Wreaths Across America donates each represent one branch of service.

“This past year we had an old-fashioned wrought iron fence constructed across the front of the cemetery. Those seven wreaths will be hung on that fence line as part of a three-part ceremony. First, we’ll honor all branches of our armed forces and the missing in action/prisoners of war. Then we will have our ceremony with guest speakers. Finally, attendees will [place] wreaths on the graves of our veterans. The national anthem will be sung [by Cimino] and taps will be played.”

According to Babylon, the company will place about 851 wreaths on Carroll graves, bringing the total — with Deer Park and Ellsworth — to about 1,000 wreaths.

She spoke of the enormity of it all — that wreaths all across our nation, and even in Normandy, France, will be laid on graves at the exact same time on the exact same day.

“Wreaths Across America provides a program that we must follow, but each ceremony is a little bit different because we rely on the talents and the volunteers we have,” she said. “Last year, at one cemetery in New Windsor, I had asked if anyone played the bugle to play taps. This little boy said he would learn how to play taps on his saxophone, and he did. At Pipe Creek, a 13-year-old girl volunteered to sing the national anthem, and she nailed it.”

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Babylon’s voice brimmed with emotion when she spoke of the importance.

“My dad was a vet and he is buried at Pipe Creek, so I did it there last year. He did not serve that long, but his brother was killed in the war. Freedom back then was not assumed, like it is today,” she said. “He lost friends. He lost his brother. My father taught us to stand for the national anthem and to put our hand across our heart and to sing it. It meant something. This company was founded by my dad and his father 90 years ago, so I am doing it for him.”

Blizzard shared her passion.

“As a police officer, I have always felt that honoring our veterans is a priority,” he said. “We have veterans at our church and buried in our cemetery. We decided this is important to the community and to the families and we’ve learned that the people love it. Last year was amazing. It was a cold, rainy, miserable day but a little bit of rain was not going to stop us. We had a huge turnout with families and kids. These people fought for our nation. Through them, freedom came about.”

Contact Babylon Vault Company at 410-848-0393 for more information on how to sponsor a wreath for the following cemeteries: St. Luke’s (Winters) Cemetery, St. Paul’s Lutheran Cemetery, Meadow Branch Cemetery, Uniontown Church of God Cemetery, Pipe Creek Church of The Brethren Cemetery, Mountain View Cemetery, Mt. Joy Cemetery, St. James Cemetery (formally Strawbridge), Western Chapel Cemetery, First Church of God Cemetery, Pine Grove Chapel and Cemetery, Pleasant Valley Cemetery, Linganore United Methodist Church Cemetery, St. John Roman Catholic Cemetery and Mt. Pleasant United Methodist Cemetery.

For more information on how to sponsor a wreath for Deer Park Methodist Cemetery, call 410 848-2313. To sponsor a wreath for Ellsworth Cemetery, call 410-875-5505. For more information on Wreaths Across America, visit www.wreathsacrossamerica.org.

Lois Szymanski covers Finksburg, Gamber, Pleasant Valley, Reese, Sandymount, Silver Run, Smallwood, Union Mills and Westminster. Reach her at 443-293-7811 or LoisSzymanski@hotmail.com.

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