Paul Connolly and Oakhurst Dairy Help Wreaths Across America
PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- This weekend, Wreaths Across America will begin its annual convoy from Harrington to Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, where volunteers will lay tens of thousands of wreaths on the gravestones of veterans. On the way, there will be a stop at Cheverus High School on Sunday, where the wreaths will be blessed.
Among those accompanying the convoy are two Portland Police officers, each who feel a real connection to the event. Officer Kevin Haley takes some of the Cheverus swim and dive team members he coaches down to Arlington every year to participate in the wreath laying.
Haley said, "We can talk about it all you want but until you step on the grounds of Arlington National Cemetery, it really puts a lump in your throat, and you quickly get a true aspect of what's happened in our past in our history to create our freedom that we have today."
The trip is a personal one for Haley. His brother, Billy, an Air Force veteran and Cheverus graduate, was buried at Arlington after taking his own life in 1996. "It was brutal," Haley said. "Still is. It's very tough but we have to move forward."
And for him, that means taking the motto of Wreaths Across America very seriously: Remember, Honor, Teach. "I thought it was really important to continue the mission. Certainly a big part of this is to teach and teach the next generation, our kids how we got our freedom and how we have our freedom today," Haley said.
Haley's devotion to Wreaths Across America is shared by his lieutenant, Janine Roberts.
While she had no personal connection to Arlington, participating in Wreaths Across America has given her one. "A sense of being able to give back," Roberts said. "They always thank me for my service when I thank them. And one distinction that I always make is that I get to go home at night. And they didn't. And their families made the sacrifice with them."
This year, Roberts will be laying a wreath at the grave of President John F. Kennedy. "I'm going to be nervous. I'm going to be humbled. Being the center of attention, I'm used to speaking in public so that part of it. Luckily I don't have to speak. I just have to lay the wreath and not trip over myself."
The wreath laying at Arlington takes place on the morning of December 15. The ceremony at Cheverus is Sunday, December 9 at 4:30 p.m. at the Keegan Gym on Ocean Avenue in Portland.
Doors open at 3:30 and all are welcome.