2017-03-05 / Front Page

Wreaths Across America announces theme for 2017

This year will focus on the celebration of differences, seeking to build bridges  

KENNEBUNK — Each December, Americans from all walks of life join together in thanks on National Wreaths Across America Day to Remember, Honor and Teach. In 2016, 1.2 million veteran wreaths were placed on headstones at more than 1,230 cemeteries around the country in honor of the service and sacrifices made for our freedoms, with each name said aloud. On Wednesday, the nonprofit announced that the national theme for 2017 is, “I’m an American.”

The inspiration for the 2017 theme is a song by Maine’s own singer/songwriter Rick Charette. But it was when the words were sung by a group of enthusiastic school children at Kennebunk Elementary School during a stop on the escort of wreaths to Arlington in December that it took on new meaning for the organization.

“Though it was a snow day for the school, many children still came in to greet us and perform for the escort,” Karen Worcester said, executive director, Wreaths Across America. “As part of their performance, the children sang ‘I’m an American … YES, I am!’ and every single person standing in that auditorium couldn’t help but sing along, cheering and watching in awe as these children beamed with pride. That is what being an American is all about.”

At the time, Worcester told the children they were going to be a “Wreaths Across America Facebook sensation.”

She then said, typically when the convoy makes a stop at a school they talk about patriotism and their mission of “Remember, Honor and Teach.” “But when we get to a place like this, I think we just shut up and listen, because you guys have got it going on,” Worcester said.

The song, which entwines patriotism and acceptance of differences together, became a favorite of the 2016 Wreaths Across America escort, which included many American Gold Star Mothers, Blue Star families, veterans and volunteers. Group members said they were touched and inspired by the spirited performance. After their visit, the escort participants found themselves singing the words often throughout their weeklong trip down the east coast to Arlington National Cemetery.

Rick Charette wrote “I’m an American” in 2002 to help kids appreciate the sacrifices women and men have made in protecting the American freedoms that we all enjoy. The inspiration for the song came from his own personal feelings on what it means to be American. A former teacher turned singer/songwriter; Charette has been writing and performing for children for the last 30 years.

“When we come together to place wreaths, there are people from the left and the right, it doesn't matter your faith or your politics. We are there as Americans,” Worcester said. “Our mission welcomes anyone to join us in remembering those who gave their lives for our freedom, including our freedom to be different from one another. And now, more than ever, we want to help people find common ground with one another by supporting our military and their families, Remembering the fallen, Honoring those who serve and Teaching the next generation the true meaning of freedom.”

Some of the lyrics of Charette’s song are: “I’m an American. Yes I am. I love my country. I love my land. With you and me together, we each play a part. We can make a difference with love in our hearts.”

National Wreaths Across America Day is a free event and open to allL people. For more information, visit wreathsacrossamerica.org.

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