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Maine wreaths bound for Arlington Cemetery sesquicentennial

PORTLAND, Maine — Despite the possibility of scaling back this year’s shipment to Arlington National Cemetery, a Maine wreath maker is already making plans to double the number of wreaths next year for the cemetery’s 150th anniversary.

All told, Wreaths Across America expects to ship 470,000 to 500,000 wreaths this month to veterans’ graves in some 900 locations. Starting Sunday, 11 trucks will begin rolling toward Arlington.

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Next year, the organization wants to place a wreath on every headstone — about 230,000 of them — at Arlington National Cemetery, outside Washington.

‘‘We want people to stop amid the hustle and bustle of the holiday season to remember our veterans and their families because there are empty seats at the table at all of these family gatherings. Some are deployed. Some paid the ultimate sacrifice,’’ said Tobin Flavin, a spokesman for Wreaths Across America.

This month, the wreaths are being shipped to 909 locations, including 24 on foreign soil. The overall numbers will be up by about 12 to 20 percent, even though numbers at Arlington may be down slightly, Flavin said.

Based in Columbia Falls, Wreaths Across America now has a $5 million budget funded through donations from groups and individuals and through corporate sponsorships. Truckers and carriers donate their services to help distribute the wreaths, said Karen Worcester, executive director.

The wreath-laying tradition began in 1992, when Worcester’s husband, Morrill, ended up with 5,000 extra wreaths, which he shipped to Arlington National Cemetery.

The tradition continued in relative anonymity for a decade until photos of balsam wreaths with red bows in the snow-covered cemetery circulated online. Soon, donors were seeking out Worcester, and people began asking for wreaths for their local cemeteries.

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