PETERBOROUGH — Area Girl Scouts plan to lay 900 wreaths on the graves of veterans in Peterborough this holiday season through the Wreaths Across America program.
“It’s a really nice gesture by the Girl Scouts,” said Peterborough Cemetery Trustee Linda Guyette. “It actually sort of flabbergasted me because I can’t imagine coming up with all of those wreaths and putting them out on all of those graves. … It’s a huge undertaking. It amazes me that the Girl Scouts wanted to do something of this magnitude, because it’s a lot, 900 graves just in Peterborough.”
Peterborough will be joining more than 2,700 locations across the country in placing wreaths on the graves of its veterans for National Wreaths Across America Day. The Maine-based nonprofit Wreaths Across America is organizing the day to take place on Saturday, Dec. 18.
Guyette said the 900 graves are spread throughout the town’s Pine Hill, Village and East Hill cemeteries as well as the Catholic Church cemeteries on High and Vine streets.
The Girl Scout leader behind this effort, KaitLynne Foote of Bennington, says honoring veterans and remembering their service are values that run deep in her family. Foote first learned about Wreaths Across America from her aunt, who like many in her family has been advocating for years to have Foote’s great-uncle’s service in the Vietnam War recognized. Her great-uncle, Donald Sargent, was on his way to Vietnam in March 1962 for a top-secret mission when his plane disappeared over the Pacific Ocean. Because he didn’t die in combat, his name was not included on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., Foote said.
Foote said she has sponsored wreaths for the program in the past, but wanted to get more involved. As co-leader of a Girl Scout Troop in Peterborough she brought the idea up and a handful of our other troops from Bennington and Hillsboro-Deering have joined with the Peterborough troop in the program.
“I think it will be a fun experience for everyone and an eye-opening experience,” Foote said, especially for the younger girls.
Foote said she reached out to four towns, but only heard back from Peterborough. Not that she’s complaining, because getting sponsors for 900 wreaths is a huge task, she said.
“We’re hoping to get the 900 wreaths for Peterborough sponsored by members of the community,” she said. “It can be individuals or it can be businesses.”
During the Dec. 18 event, there will be a brief ceremony at noon and then the wreaths will be laid at each grave, “at the same time that the wreaths are going out in Arlington, it will be almost magical,” Foote said.
The Girl Scouts plan to continue this each year, and while they may not be able to get all 900 wreaths to be sponsored this first year they will try, she said. And whether or not they have a wreath for each grave, as part of the program each veteran’s grave will be visited during the event.
“Even if we don’t have wreaths for all of the graves, somebody will stop at all of the graves,” Foote said. “They will be stopping to remember and honor because that is part of Wreaths Across America.”
Wreaths Across America includes several locations throughout New Hampshire, including Atkinson, Concord, Exeter, Conway, Hudson, Fremont, Hampton and Belmont.
The nonprofit started in 1992 after a wreath company in Maine had extra wreaths after the holiday season, Foote said. The owner, Morrill Worcester, decided to take the extra wreaths to Arlington National Cemetery and it became an annual pilgrimage for Worcester to travel from Maine to Arlington for a wreath-laying ceremony each year.
In 2005, images of the wreaths in Arlington began circulating on the internet causing people from around the country to reach out to Worcester.
“It kind of started growing from there,” Foote said, with wreaths being laid in all 50 states each year. “Last year they laid 1.7 million wreaths.”