Wreaths Across America 2022

On December 17. 2022 the “Wreaths Across America ” program was presented by the American Veterans Association of Washington TWP and the Long Valley Knights of Columbus at St Mark’s Church.


Observer Tribune


WASHINGTON TWP. — Citizens once again paid tribute to military veterans during the national Wreaths Across America Program on Saturday, Dec. 17.

Nearly 100 audience members attended ceremonies in the parish hall at the St. Mark the Evangelist’s Parish Hall, where veterans from all branches of the armed forces laid ceremonial wreaths. Afterwards, attendees fanned out to local cemeteries to place American flags and wreaths on a total of 380 veterans’ graves.

Michael Lennon of the Long Valley Knights of Columbus said this year’s event “went very, very well.”

“We had a lot of cooperation from the town,” he said. “We reached our goal in late November. We were able to contribute about 30 wreaths to the drive at Arlington National Cemetery, plus we retained a few in the bank to ease some of the fundraising pressure for next year.’’

Wreaths Across America was brought to the township seven years ago by Sarah Guida as part of her Girl Scout Gold Star initiative. After she left for college at Virginia Tech, the act of continuing it gained support through Township officials, Police Chief Jeffrey Almer, the Long Valley Knights of Columbus and the American Veterans Association of Washington Township 1776 (AVAWT).

There are five major cemeteries in Long Valley where war veterans are buried, the German Valley Cemetery on Coleman Road, the Middle Valley Cemetery at West Mill Road and Beacon Hill Road, the Our Lady of the Mountain Cemetery on Schooley’s Mountain Road, the Pleasant Grove Cemetery on Califon Road and the Old Stone Union Hill Cemetery on Fairview Road. The Union Hill Cemetery is the final resting place of two Revolutionary War veterans.

Wreaths Across America was initiated in 1992, when Morrill Worcester, owner of Worcester Wreath Company in Harrington, Maine, found his business had a surplus of wreaths. Remembering a boyhood experience from a visit to Washington D.C., Worcester, with the aid of then-Maine Senator Olympia Snowe, arranged for the extra wreaths to be placed at Arlington in one of the older sections of the cemetery.

The practice soon became an annual tribute. It went on quietly for 13 years, with more and more volunteers and organizations stepping up each year to provide and lay more wreaths at Arlington.

Then, in 2005, a photograph of the rows and rows of graves at the national cemetery adorned with snow-covered wreaths circulated on the internet, drawing attention from individuals and groups around the country either wanting to help with the Arlington effort, or wishing to emulate the act of laying wreaths at their national or state cemetery. As a result, Wreaths Across America was created in 2007.

“I take a tremendous amount of pride in taking care of the veterans in Washington Township,’’ said Vietnam veteran Charlie Dauchert of Post 1776, who takes an active role in the event. “It’s very important to make them understand, especially the children, that anyone who wears a uniform in the United States and has given their time, whether they were in the reserves, or regular army, or any branch they have always given their time away from their families, particularly this time of year.’’

The program has also gotten full support from the municipality which considers the event a tradition worth preserving.

“What makes Washington Township so special is that we don’t just get involved with some of these big national issues, we really care about our own,’’ said Mayor Matt Murello, who attended the event. “We care about the people that served in this town that made the ultimate sacrifice.

“That’s what today is about, recognizing people locally and all the people that support the event. You don’t just have the Knights of Columbus and veterans. Every one of those wreaths was purchased by someone privately. You have 300 some odd wreaths purchased at $10 each.

“Every person in this town that purchased those wreaths is making a statement that they support the veterans of this town and that is really what is most important today.’’

The Dec. 18 ceremony was brief and poignant. There was a color guard. Mary Wood Russell played the bagpipes and Maggie Schaffer sang the national anthem. An invocation was given by Army veteran Tim Kelly and opening remarks were provided by AVAWT Post 1776 Commander and Navy Master Chief Petty Officer Thomas McBride.

After a speech by Murello, ceremonial wreaths were presented by individuals who have served in the various branches of the armed forces. Korean War veteran Don Cable presented for the Navy, Bernie Schettino for the Army, Police Officer Frank Giaquinto for the Marines, Lucie Cohn for the Coast Guard, Tom Sanders for the Air Force, Navy veteran John Larkin and cadet Alex Banning for the Coast Guard.

Navy veteran Larry Oppel placed a wreath in memory of Chester’s Larry Maysey, a West Morris Central High School graduate and Air Force member Missing in Action in Laos during the Vietnam War. Army veteran Chuck Dauchert placed a wreath in remembrance of Army Specialist Richard Lacey, a member of his unit missing in action in South Vietnam.

Prior to the wreath placement, Lennon explained to the 100 or so audience members what to do: Place a wreath on the ground in front of a tombstone marked by an American flag, render proper honors if in uniform, say the veteran’s name and take a moment to reflect and remember. After that attendees fanned out to the cemetery of their choice.

Banning, who is a cadet at Maine Maritime Academy in Castine, Maine, as part of their Strategic Sea Lift and Shipment Program, said young people in Long Valley may have learned from the program to appreciate the veterans sacrifices more than those in other parts of the country. The Strategic Sea Lift program is a reserve program that supplies officers who can man supply vessels for the fleet.

“I love the program,’’ Banning said of Wreaths Across America. “I think it’s great. I’m so happy that so many people in town are honoring the veterans. I think especially this town. A lot of the kids, my friends, and kids I’ve talked to know what it means to be a veteran and know what it means to serve your country.’’

Long Valley’s Egan family, Alexander, Lisa and their children Eleanor, Abigail, Alexander and Elizabeth, were among several families laying wreaths at the Our Lady of the Mountain cemetery on Schooley’s Mountain Road. The Egans usually attend the ceremony although they missed it last year.

“Their grandparents (William Egan, Ronald Hahn) served in the military,’’ Lisa Egan said. “It’s important to my husband and I that they understand as children being raised in the United States of America how important it is to respect those who have served and who gave their lives in sacrifice for us.’’

The event also drew first-time participants, including Long Valley’s Sean and Vance Mahoney were there. They represented Long Valley Cub Scout Pack 136 and laid wreaths at Our Lady.

“I wanted to support all the veterans we’ve lost over the years and everything that they did for our country,’’ said 10-year-old Vance. They protected everybody here and around the US.’’

Now that they have attended the ceremony, the Mahoneys might make it an annual event around the holidays.

“It’s a nice ceremony for everyone to see,’’ Sean Mahoney said. “I like that there were so many kids that came out to the initial ceremony at St. Mark’s.

“The way the Knights of Columbus broke it out for different cemeteries to come out and do this little bit of work to help people remember what the veterans did. I think that it is great thing for the town.’’

Veterans Day Dinner at the Chesapeake Tavern, Long Valley NJ

On Thursday evening Nov 10 , 2022 many of the veterans from post 1776, accompanied by their wives and friends,  had a great complimentary dinner at the Chesapeake Tavern,  Long Valley, NJ.  The Tavern has been doing this for Veterans Day for many years and we greatly appreciate  their generosity.

Washington TWP Veterans Brunch

The Valley Restaurant in Long Valley, Washington Township  provided a breakfast (brunch) in honor of Veterans Day.  Brunch was provided by Washington TWP.  and thanks to the township personnel who helped making this affair a great event.

Visit to West Morris Central High School

Post 1776 started our visit with some refreshments followed by  discussions with the students at West Morris Central High School in classrooms or in main room.

Below is the program  of the days events.



Below pictures compliments of:

Kelly Duddy

Teacher of French, History, & ESL

West Morris Mendham/Central

Kossmann & Flocktown Schools

On November 8, 2022 post 1776 participated  in a Flag raising event  at the Kossmann School  followed by a similar event at the Flocktown School. After the event at Flocktown, we had a discussions with the fifth grade classes.

Below  is an article and pictures from the Nov 10, 2022 edition of the Observer-Tribune (Washington Township)

WASHINGTON TWP. – It’s tough to tell who benefits more when Long Valley veterans visit the Washington Township elementary schools, the students who learn from them or the veterans themselves.

About a dozen veterans from American Veterans Association of Washington Township Post 1776 held a double flag raising on Monday morning at the Flocktown-Kossmann school on Flocktown Road. It was one of several events the veterans have been involved in last week and this week leading up to Veterans Day on Friday, Nov. 11.

“We get a renewed sense of patriotism every time we see the kids assembling for the pledge of allegiance or patriotic songs,’’ said Army Veteran Tim Kelly. “It fills our heart with a great deal of joy.’’

Monday’s visit started with an outdoor assembly in front of Kossmann the K-2 school that included a poem by school Principal Michael Craver about Veterans Day, a flag raising conducted by veterans and students, the saying of the Pledge of Allegiance and singing of the national anthem and “My Country Tis of Thee, by a group of students led by music teacher Jeanne Fessenden.

That was followed by a similar assembly in front of Flocktown School for third, fourth and fifth graders. Afterwards, the veterans talked about their years of service and experiences in the military in front of several classes of fifth graders in the school’s music room. The discussion was conducted by the veterans group commander and Navy veteran Thomas McBride.

“The questions are similar every year but it shows a depth of understanding at their level,’’ Kelly said. “A depth of understanding of what the military offers the country. The protection we afford the country. The sacrifices that we made.

“We are delighted with their curiosity. This is the next generation of patriots,” he said. “Our mission is to help young people understand freedom is not free. The only way that we maintain being a free country is by having a strong military.’’

Busy Schedule

The American Veterans Association of Washington Township includes members from all branches of the United States Armed Forces. Traditionally they keep very busy this time of year, and 2022 has been no exception.

On Wednesday, Nov. 2, veterans placed or replaced flags on veteran’s graves at the Washington Township. Cemeteries in preparation for Wreaths Across America, the national event, which occurs in mid-December. On Thursday, Nov. 3, they were at Old Farmers Road school and on Friday, Nov. 4, they were at the Cucinella School for flag raisings and question and answer sessions with students.

On Wednesday Nov 9, they will meet at West Morris Central High School in the morning for a discussion with the student’s history club. The following day, the annual veterans brunch was scheduled at the Valley Restaurant in downtown Long Valley. On Friday, Nov. 11, Veterans Day, the veterans were invited for an afternoon of dessert and coffee at Heath Village on Schooley’s Mountain Road.

“It’s just a blast being with these guys and seeing this interaction between real people and the kids,’’ Washington Township Mayor Matt Murello said. “That brings it home for the kids to see people in the community that are actually veterans.’’

Murello attended both flag raisings and is a big supporter of the veterans group. He said in his talks with other mayors over the years, he has discovered the veterans and the town have created a unique bond most towns don’t enjoy.

“There are not many towns that do this type of interaction with veterans that actually live in town and have kids in the school system and the schools,’’ Murello said. “It’s a really nice thing because it kind of brings what the veterans have sacrificed back to home. The kids see these veterans as their grandparents and friends of their grandfathers.’’

Flocktown-Kossmann Principal Craver said that aspects of what the veterans represent can be found in the curriculum. Because of the pandemic, the veterans limited live visits to the schools for a couple of years. This year’s visit was the closest they have gotten to getting the event back to pre-Covid levels.

“It’s amazingly important for the students to know what the veterans have done for our country,’’ Craver said. “They take for granted, we all do, just coming to school and enjoying our freedom.

“Maybe not all of them understand it, especially the little ones. It’s good to plant the seed. They know that there were some important people at their school today that mean a lot to us and the community and our country.’’

Most of the Veterans that attended were from the Vietnam Era and served during the 60s and 70’s. Only a few saw actual combat overseas. The oldest was Don Cable, a Navy man who served during the Korean War from 1951-1955. The students had numerous questions for the group during the discussion session, including what ships veterans served on and if they ever rode in a tank. Answering that latter question was Township Committeeman Ken Short,  who served in the Army National Guard from 1971-1978. The answer, by the way, was that the tanks were very noisy and not air conditioned at that time.

Other questions included, what are the different branches of the military? What are those little squares (badges) on your uniform? Why did they use Morse Code? What is it like to be drafted? Does everyone go into combat? How many people are on an aircraft carrier? Is the USS Intrepid still in New York? Have you ever met a prisoner of war? The veterans did the best they could to supply the answers and many questions turned into conversations which helped the students and veterans connect.

“The questions are great,’’ Kelly said. “We are speaking from the heart and from our experience as being in the military. We represent most of the segments of the military. We speak from our experience. We are here (speaking) because we are volunteers.

“Nobody makes us come here. We do it out of love of country and to help the young people understand that the United States is the greatest country in the world because of young people like them who grow up and want to serve the country in the military or in some capacity.’’