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Gainesville American Heritage girls lay wreaths at Quantico

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Members of American Heritage Girls Troop VA 633 from Holy Trinity Church in Gainesville knelt at the grave of Thomas P. Vander Woude Sr., the father of their pastor, at Quantico National Cemetery in Triangle Dec. 16. There, they laid a wreath and prayed a Hail Mary.

The girls were at Quantico to lay wreaths as part of the annual Wreaths Across America program. This year’s weather was much better than last year’s icy event. The troop has participated for seven years, raising money for wreaths that also serves as a fundraiser for the troop, according to troop coordinator Geraldine Erikson.

An army of 6,000 volunteers laid nearly 13,000 wreaths at Quantico National Cemetery.

Anne Judge, mother of troop member Jane, said participating in the event is important.

“It is a chance for us to come and pray for the men who fought for us,” she said. “Every time we come, it reminds us that they are here and they need our prayers.”

The troop received a $500 check from Azalea Charities to purchase wreaths. Troop members sell sponsorships for wreaths each year. Troop member Nora O’Neill sold 112 this year. She said it was important to sell them “because the veterans served our country.”

Several other local groups were involved in Wreaths Across America, including the boys soccer team at Bishop O’Connell High School in Arlington, which laid wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery; and St. Rita Cub Scout Pack No. 522, which laid wreaths at St. Mary’s Cemetery in Alexandria.

The annual event started in 1992, when Morrill Worcester, a wreath-maker from Maine, had 5,000 extra wreaths and donated them to honor fallen veterans at the Arlington National Cemetery. That same effort takes place at more than 1,200 locations across the nation. The theme this year was “I’m an American,” and was inspired by a song written by Maine singer-songwriter Rick Charette. His song was sung during a stop on the escort of wreaths to Arlington National Cemetery last year.

It takes volunteers from all walks of life to fulfill the event’s purpose, said Capt. Greg Fletcher, commander of the Fredericksburg Composite Squadron of the United States Air Force Auxiliary Civil Air Patrol. “It is really moving to see young people participating from organizations like the American Heritage Girls and other youth development organizations,” he said.


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017