With so many ways of honoring those who’ve served or died serving, including Memorial Day and Veterans Day, it’s rewarding — and not at all surprising — to see a relatively new way of doing so really catching on in Carroll County.
Last Saturday at noon, cemeteries across Carroll joined with nearly 2,000 others across the country in participating in Wreaths Across America. It is estimated that more than a quarter-million wreaths were laid at that time.
This county was responsible for hundreds of those as 17 cemeteries participated this year, up from two last year and one in 2017, when Mel Blizzard brought the then-decade old tradition to Deer Park United Methodist Church Cemetery. Last year, Blizzard worked with the Community Foundation of Carroll County to bring it to the Ellsworth Cemetery in Westminster as well. And this year, Donna Babylon of Babylon Vault Company worked with sponsors to bring 15 more cemeteries into the fold.
“Carroll is a patriotic county,” Del. Haven Shoemaker said at the Wreaths Across America event at Deer Park UMC. Shoemaker was among the many speakers across the county expressing thanks to veterans through words and wreaths.
This all started when a 12-year-old paper boy from Maine visited Washington and was particularly moved by a trip to Arlington National Cemetery. According to wreathsacrossamerica.org, that paper boy, Morrill Worcester, grew up to become the owner of Worcester Wreath Company in Maine, and quietly adorned Arlington with gravesite wreaths for years before founding Wreaths Across America in 2007. Its mission? To remember, honor and teach. Wreaths are sponsored by individuals at a cost of $15 each and then shipped to participating cemeteries.
Wreaths came into Carroll County on Thursday, freshly made and straight from Maine, delivered by volunteers whose companies also volunteered the trucks. The weather was awful Saturday, but pouring rain and cold winds couldn’t stop the crowds from paying tribute to those whose service has kept this nation free.
Gary Saylor, a veteran who served in the Army in Vietnam, said it was an easy decision to come out to Deer Park UMC, despite the conditions. “My cousins and uncles who served in World War I and World War II are buried in the cemetery, and my grandparents, too," he said. "They sacrificed so much for us.”
Another veteran Grace Liebno, who helped with refreshments at Deer Park, added: “This is a terrific event. It makes me proud to have served.”
It was like that throughout Carroll. From Mount Airy’s Pine Grove Chapel and Cemetery, where Deputy Secretary Robert L. Finn of the Maryland Dept. of Veteran Affairs spoke; to Union Bridge’s Linganore United Methodist Church Cemetery, where Alison Malachowski, mother of U.S. Marine Jimmy Malachowski, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2011, was enlisted to speak; to Westminster’s Meadow Branch Cemetery, where reigning Carroll County Veteran of the Year James Tipton and his service dog were booked to speak; and to many others throughout the county that brought in veterans and public officials to pay homage. Many of the ceremonies featured live versions of the national anthem, color guards and even rifle teams.
But the focus was not on those who showed up at the cemeteries, but rather on those buried. “If only this cemetery could talk,” Commissioner Richard Weaver, R-District 2, said at Deer Park UMC. “I can imagine the stories, some good, some bad, and many about the fight to preserve our freedoms."
Sheriff Jim DeWees, whose father served in Vietnam, expanded on those sentiments.
“Make no mistake,” DeWees said. “Our country isn’t the greatest nation on this planet by accident or happenstance. It is because of my father, my grandfathers, great-uncle; the men and women that rest in this cemetery and cemeteries throughout the world; and the men and women that currently serve our country.”
For more information on Wreaths Across America, visit www.wreathsacrossamerica.org.