A scout places a wreath at the veterans memorial at St. Joseph Cemetery in Biddeford on Saturday, Dec, 19, National Wreaths Across America Day. Tammy Wells Photo

BIDDEFORD — Families, friends, a Scout pack, Rotarians and others gathered at five Biddeford cemeteries Saturday, Dec. 19 to place wreaths on the graves of veterans.

It was a scene played out at 2,557 locations across the country, and at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, on National Wreaths Across America Day, as people paused to honor those who served in wartime and peacetime, by placing wreaths.

These folks were among the volunteers placing wreaths on veterans graves at St. Joseph Cemetery in Biddeford on National Wreaths Across America Day. In all, wreaths were placed at five Biddeford cemeteries. The event was spearheaded by Graig Morin, owner of Brown Dog Carriers & Logistics. Tammy Wells Photo

At St. Joseph Cemetery in Biddeford, Pam Payeur and her 6 1/2-year-old grandson John John trudged through the snow together to lay wreaths. As they placed the garlands of evergreen boughs, each trimmed with a red bow, Payeur read the names on the granite headstones to her grandson, in keeping with the Wreaths Across America motto of Remember, Honor Teach. She asked him to repeat the names, and he did.

Organized locally by Graig Morin of Brown Dog Carriers & Logistics, with support from many other companies and organizations, and by volunteers who pitched in, wreaths were laid at St. Mary Cemetery, St. Joseph Cemetery, St. Demetrios Cemetery, Woodlawn Cemetery and Greenwood Cemetery, as well as 13 private cemeteries.

Morin, along with his wife Christine and boys Elliot, Nolan and Henry, placed a wreath at the grave of his grandfather, World War II veteran Gerard Morin, who died on Jan. 30, just a few months before his 100th birthday.

Graig Morin, his wife Christine, and boys Elliot, Nolan and Henry paused at the flag near the veterans memorial at St. Joseph Cemetery in Biddeford Saturday, one of five cemeteries where wreaths were laid as part of Wreaths Across America Day. Morin, whose company Brown Dog Carriers & Logistics has taken wreaths to Arlington National Cemetery for the last few years, spearheaded the local event. Tammy Wells Photo

Gerard Morin had worked at the South Portland Shipyard, building Liberty ships in the early days of the war. According to his obituary, he was drafted into the army in 1943, assigned to the 106th Quartermaster Company of the 106th Infantry Division, and fought at the Battle of the Bulge. He and his company mates were responsible for ferrying supplies and many nights, driving without lights, were behind enemy lines. From this battle, the 106th fought their way to Germany.

Morin has taken part Wreaths Across America for the past four years, and this year sent two tractor trailers carrying wreaths to Arlington National Cemetery. As well, he decided he wanted his community to mark the day, and organized the effort to do so, kicking off a fundraising drive with a $10,500 contribution. Several other companies and some organizations contributed, raising the $34,000 they needed to buy wreaths. Among them was Landry French Construction, which also laid wreaths at St. Mary Cemetery on Saturday,  Morin said.

The story of Wreaths Across America began in the early 1990s, when Maine wreath maker Morrill Worcester took 5,000 surplus wreaths and secured permission to place them on headstones at Arlington National Cemetery. Later, the nonprofit Wreaths Across America Foundation was formed and now thousands of wreaths are sponsored and placed at Arlington and on veterans’ graves in cemeteries across the country. This year, 1.7 million wreaths were placed, according to the foundation.

Among those helping out on Saturday was veteran Raoul Goulet, who has led the effort to place flags on veterans’ gravestones at St. Joseph Cemetery for Memorial Day for 19 years.

Pam Payeur and her 6 1/2 year-old grandson John John placed wreaths on veterans graves at St. Joseph Cemetery in Biddeford on Saturday as part of National Wreaths Across America Day. Tammy Wells Photo

“They called and said ‘we need your help,'” said Goulet — he’s the person who knows where the veteran’s graves are — and he was glad to pitch in. Goulet is a U.S. Army veteran and had orders for Vietnam, but was sent to South Korea instead, he said.

There were lots of families and kids at St. Joseph, doing their part, and because of pandemic restrictions, organizers promoted social distancing and had masks available, among other precautions.

Among those attending the event, which began with Taps played by Mike Truchon of Turner and Amazing Grace by bagpiper Alec Thompson of Buxton, were Linda and Roger Roy of Lyman.

Roger Roy, who served during the Vietnam War era, said he has three uncles buried at St. Joseph, all who served in World War II.

The couple felt it was important to be at the event.

“It’s paying respect,” said Roger Roy.

A wreath graces the headstone of a veteran at St. Joseph Cemetery in Biddeford on Dec. 19, National Wreaths Across America Day. Tammy Wells Photo

As the wreaths graced the headstones nestled in the snow, Morin thought about the morning’s work.

“We’re all very passionate about it,” he said. “And it’s good for the community to have this.”

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