“It reminds me to celebrate the people who fight for this country, and to respect them.”
That is what incoming Wiscasset Middle High School ninth grader Laila Dicus, 13, thought of the sight of Wreaths Across America’s mobile education exhibit in Wiscasset Speedway’s parking lot Saturday. It arrived minutes earlier under Wiscasset fire and police departments’ escort from Shaw’s supermarket. Then, under a gray sky and in a cool wind, WAA staff and volunteers set up the exhibit, with its video theater and white boards of veterans’ signatures, for a day sharing about WAA’s cause of putting wreaths on veterans’ graves, and otherwise honoring veterans.
WAA driver-ambassador Stefan Brann planned to thank any veterans who came, and he planned to say “Welcome home” to any Vietnam veterans. They were bullied when they came home, he said. “And it’s long past due that we say thank you to our Vietnam veterans.” Brann and WAA ambassador Jennifer Merrill, both of the Blue Hill area, are a couple. Brann said they have taken the exhibit as far as California and have found, veterans everywhere are excited about WAA’s mission and “very grateful ... that someone’s finally stepping up and saying thank you to them.”
Merrill said she is very passionate about Wreaths’ cause. “It’s such an honor and a pleasure to be a part of,” she said. The two enjoy working on it together. “It’s awesome, to have two people who want to work really hard to make sure veterans are thanked,” he said. A wreath is a thank you, and WAW put 2.2 million of them on graves in 2019, he said.
WAA volunteer Richard Barter of Brunswick invited WAA to Wiscasset. Vanessa Jordan, who co-owns the speedway with husband Richard, said they were “totally honored” to host the exhibit. She said WAA and the speedway started partnering a couple years ago and WAA will be back with a display this Labor Day Weekend, yet Saturday, to also have WAA’s big mobile unit that travels the country, added to the honor. “It’s a partnership that has kept growing,” she said.
Phippsburg’s Joe Spear Jr., son of late World War II veteran Joe Spear Sr., volunteers for WAA because he likes helping get its message out about honoring veterans. “It’s honoring the guys that put their lives on the line.” Fellow volunteer William Phillips of West Bath said the more time that passes since all the wars, the fewer people are around who remember them and the importance of thanking veterans. “But I hope and pray we don’t have any more wars.”
Dicus’s mother Ellen Ayer-Dicus, a racing fan who gets to the track early each race day to beat the traffic, said it was amazing to see the truck there. She said hearing her daughter’s comment was humbling. Laila sees the big picture, said Ayer-Dicus, wife of Navy veteran Christopher Dicus.
Fellow racing fan Dick Webb of Pittston was also glad to see WAA at the speedway. “Very nice,” he said. He has had two sons in the service: Gary Webb, in the Army; Chris Webb, in the Air Force.
Barter later said, WAA got to recognize some Vietnam veterans Saturday. He said more than 100 people viewed WAA’s videos, and many more checked out the static displays. “We find out day in and day out, patriotism in America is very strong.”
Learn more at wreathsacrossamerica.org