Worcester never forgot that sight, or his feeling of sadness and pride. Decades later in 1992, as the owner of a Christmas products business, Worcester asked the men building his new factory to buy some wreaths for the business. They went a little nuts and bought 4,000, which he couldn’t possibly sell by Christmas.
That’s when Worcester came up with Plan B. He called a friend who owned a trucking business. Then he called his senator in Washington and drove to Arlington two weeks before Christmas to lay the wreaths at the national cemetery. He liked how it turned out, so every year, he and his wife Karen have kept up the ritual.
Last year, though, the e-mails started flying. Each message contained a photo of the bedecked gravestones, a tribute to fallen soldiers and a description of Worcester’s yearly trek. Suddenly, volunteers besieged the businessman, including hundreds of wreath-layers and a motorcade of veterans, including the Patriot Guard Riders. They took Route 1, adding motorcyclists along the way, instead of barreling down the interstate.
With the explosion of his project across the Internet, Worcester had to figure out a bigger and better Plan B. He launched wreathsacrossamerica.org to coordinate wreath-laying at military cemeteries nationwide. And this year for the first time, he’s accepting wreath sponsors instead of returning people’s checks.
Some things stay the same. Worcester still reserves a few wreaths for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the Kennedy grave sites and the resting place of Sen. Edmund Muskie, of Maine.
“It’s just my way to say thank you,” he says. “I’ve got a lot to be thankful for.”
Bottom line: Every setback can become an opportunity, and every opportunity can grow.
—Adapted from “‘Rest easy, sleep well my brothers. Know the line has held, your job is done,’ ” Marc Fisher, The Washington Post.