On Saturday, a special Darien tradition will take place at Spring Grove Cemetery, as the town takes part in Wreaths Across America.
Wreaths Across America began in the early 1990’s, when Worcester Wreath in Maine had extra wreaths at the end of the holiday season. The owner, Morrill Worcester, made arrangements with a state senator to have them placed at Arlington National Cemetery.
The campaign began to receive national attention, and in 2006, simultaneous wreath ceremonies were held at 150 locations throughout the country in December.
By 2010, Wreaths Across America placed 220,000 memorial wreaths at 545 locations.
In addition to these wreaths, the Worcester Wreath Company continues its tradition of donating seven ceremonial wreaths to each cemetery requesting them, and selling additional wreaths to adorn the graves of veterans in more than 410 state, national and local cemeteries, 24 foreign cemeteries and Naval ships on all the Seven Seas.
This year, donations from the town, including a generous private donor, guarantee a wreath on every single soldier’s grave.
Darien and Spring Grove Cemetery have a particular significance to the state’s veterans as the Fitch Home for Soldiers, now the site of The Heights, was established by Benjamin Fitch of Darien for Civil War veterans and later for children of fathers killed in that war.
From 1864 to 1940 the Fitch Home, the country’s first home for veterans, served the needs of hundreds of orphans and thousands of men who served the US in various wars. More than 2,000 of those veterans now rest in the Spring Grove Cemetery in Darien.
The home eventually expanded from five acres to 12 acres with another five acres across the street and two more acres at Spring Grove Cemetery. The Fitch Home steadily grew from 197 resident veterans in 1889 to 500 in 1905 and 547 in 1910.
The Fitch Home became the Connecticut State Veterans hospital in 1940 and then relocated to Rocky Hill upstate.
Several years ago, Spring Grove Cemetery received a special plaque of the Gettysburg Address due to its importance in the state’s veterans’ history.
During the holidays, it is a time for joy and giving, but also a time to be thankful for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for us to have the freedoms we do today — and for Darien to remember and honor a significant part of the town’s history.
The public is invited to attend the simultaneous wreath-laying ceremony to be held at Darien’s Spring Grove Veteran’s Cemetery, at noon on Saturday, Dec. 17. Or get there early and help unload the hundreds of wreaths from the trucks.
Please take the time, even if it might be cold out, to share in this national recognition with your families and make it a part of your holiday traditions for years to come.