PORTLAND — A convoy of up to a dozen tractor-trailer trucks filled with wreaths bound for Washington, D.C., will stop at Cheverus High School on Sunday, Dec. 5, where they will be blessed during an hour-long ceremony.
The event is part of Wreaths Across America, an extension of the Arlington Wreath Project that was started in 1992 by Morrill Worcester of Harrison-based Worcester Wreaths.
In its first year, Wreaths Across America delivered 5,000 wreaths to Arlington National Cemetery. The effort has now grown to deliver more than 20,000 wreaths to 400 veterans cemeteries and monuments.
“I am honored that the Cheverus community will be able to host this event and honor our veterans in this unique way,” Cheverus President The Rev. William R. Campbell said. “Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, was a soldier, and I assume he would be proud of this moment.”
The effort to bring Wreaths Across America to Cheverus was spearheaded by Kevin Haley, a Portland police officer who has coached swimming and diving at the private school for 21 years.
Haley was personally inspired by the project by his late brother, William, a 1970 Cheverus alumni who served in the U.S. Air Force for 21 years before he died in 1996.
“The whole (philosophy) behind Morrill Worcester is remember, honor and teach, and specifically the younger generations to respect our past and present veterans,” Haley said.
Haley began making solitary, annual pilgrimages to Arlington Cemetery to visit his brother’s grave about five years ago and to lay wreaths in his honor. This year, however, he said he expects to be joined by more than 75 other people, including students, police officers and firefighters.
“I will do it until the day I die,” Haley said. “It’s very, very moving.”
The group will participate in a Dec. 10 remembrance ceremony before laying wreaths the following day. The event will end with a ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Cheverus spokeswoman Jody Lamscha said Sunday’s ceremony in Portland will start as soon as the tractor trailer trucks arrive at the school at around 4:30 p.m. People should get there early to get parking spots, she said.
Following the hour-long ceremony, which will include a military roll call and a blessing by Campbell, the wreaths will be escorted out of town by Patriot Guard Riders.
The school will also light its Christmas tree on top of Loyola Hall after the ceremony, Lamscha said.
Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or firstname.lastname@example.org