Wreaths destined for Arlington National Cemetery stop in Montville

Montville — It was nearly 9:45 a.m. on Tuesday, and the crowd of hundreds of people at St. Bernard School was waiting.

The wreaths were running late.

The Route 32 Catholic school was chosen as one of this year's stops for Wreaths Across America, the nonprofit effort to transport thousands of wreaths from Maine and lay them on the gravestones of veterans buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

They had stopped at Ponaganset Middle School in North Scituate, R.I., that morning, and after a presentation and performances by St. Bernard student groups, they would continue on to Old Saybrook.

Eleven trucks full of wreaths were making their way down the highway toward St. Bernard, accompanied by Wreaths Across America officials, police and motorcyclists.

Finally, as 10 a.m. came close, the trucks pulled in to the St. Bernard parking lot to the sound of drums and honking horns.

St. Bernard students solemnly carried an enormous American flag toward the trucks, where Kevin Reilly, the pastor at St. Patrick's church in Mystic, blessed the fleet, the wreaths and the drivers.

Most of the wreaths, made by the Worcester Wreath Company in Harrington, Maine, will end up in Arlington National Cemetery in a ceremony planned for Dec. 12.

Since the nonprofit organization was founded in 2007, wreaths have been placed in hundreds of veterans' cemeteries along the southbound route in a weeklong, traveling commemoration of those who served and died in the military.

The organization depends on donations, corporate sponsorships and volunteer truckers who participate in the annual migration.

Wayne Hanson, chairman of the Wreaths Across America board, said St. Bernard had been chosen after the school's choir performed at last year's local stop, Mohegan Sun.

"They did such a wonderful job... so we said we can come down this way," Hanson said.

The choir performed again after the wreaths arrived, singing the National Anthem before appearances by rock band Mission Rising, the Coast Guard Color Guard and the St. Bernard concert band.

Before it came time for the trucks and wreaths to continue south, St. Bernard Headmaster Donald Macrino said a few words.

"Our students, and the entire St. Bernard's family, pause today to remember all our veterans," he said.

m.shanahan@theday.com

Twitter: @martha_shan

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