Branford Wreaths Across America (WAA) organizer Mark Hally, left, shares a moment with Lt. Commander Dottie Packer (NC USN, retired) Dec. 18. Packer, a WAA supporter for many years, including in Maine’s convoy to Arlington Cemetery, has long been a proud supporter of Hally’s efforts on behalf of WAA in Branford, which began in 2019. Pam Johnson/The Sound
A tremendous volunteer effort, capped off with a remarkable one-time gift of $9,000, contributed to a successful third year for Branford teenager Mark Hally’s effort to honor those in the city’s military graves during National Wreaths Across America (WAA) Day, December 18.
This year, a total of 1,658 wreaths were sponsored; each wreath equals a $15 donation. In a cold and rainy but heartwarming ceremony Dec. 18 at St. Agnes Cemetery, a large crowd of volunteers and supporters gathered at noon for remarks, remembrances and to honor those who served.
“I want to thank everyone for coming out and volunteering for this event, even though the weather wasn’t the greatest,” Hally said. “This is year three and the program has grown. I want to thank everyone for their input, for their support and especially Lockheed Martin who donated $9,000 to Wreaths Across America Branford.”
Hally said this year’s program is deeply grateful for the $9,000 donation from Lockheed Martin, owner of Sikorsky Aircraft. On December 18, he was also pleased to meet Dan Woermer of Naugatuck, a corporate quality supervisor who came to Branford for the ceremony and to help as a volunteer with laying wreaths.
The son of a military veteran, Woermer applied to volunteer with WAA through the company’s website and said he was happy to be given the Branford location for his volunteer effort.
“I figured I’d do my part. My dad is also a veteran,” Woermer said.
In 2019, Hally laid 1,600 wreaths at Branford Veterans’ graves on National WAA Day, marking the first time that Branford’s military resting places have been honored with WAA wreaths. In December 2020, Hally and a small group of dedicated volunteers put on their face masks, grabbed their snow shovels and helped place 1,300 WAA wreaths at Branford’s military graves.
Hally instituted Branford’s WAA program in 2019 as part of his Eagle Scout project.
“I wanted every veteran at Branford to have a crown, like they do at Arlington,” he said.
He also pledged that year to continue the program. Hally also continues to receive volunteer assistance from Branford Boy Scout Troop 604. Hally, now a cadet under the Branford Fire Department (BFD), also thanked BFD who again provided essential support to the program for a third year. .
On December 18, the brief ceremony opened to patriotic music from Stony Creek Fife & Drum Corps as the BFD Honor Guard marched the colors to stand with a display of specially decorated wreaths, one for each branch of the Army next to Engine 1. Vietnam Veteran Brian Minter discussed the history and importance of honoring military graves through the WAA. Each year on National WAA Day, wreaths like those currently on the Branford War Graves are placed on war graves at Arlington National Cemetery and on tens of thousands of other war graves in across the country in more than 1,200 locations.
The Branford event also included a blessing of wreaths by St. Therese’s Church (St. John Bosco Parish) Rev. Bishop David Walker; as well as a military gun salute and the playing of Taps, in a bugle call and response, by musicians from Branford High School.
BFD and cemetery captains also helped Hally coordinate the laying of wreaths at all seven city cemeteries simultaneously on December 18. In addition to Engine 1 and career personnel assisting with traffic and wreath laying in Sainte-Agnes, other areas were covered with assistance. of Volunteer Company 2 – MP Rice, Stony Creek Company 5 and Indian Neck Company 9.
Special assistance at the city’s various cemeteries was provided by key volunteers, including Branford Lions Club President Marci Ward at Tabor Lutheran Cemetery; as part of the second year of the Lions’ commitment to lay wreaths in Tabor; Brian Dougherty, captain of Stony Creek Cemetery and involved since the start of WAA in Branford; Alex Palluzzi Jr., helping lay the wreaths for Damacus Cemetery; Kris Klarman, captain of Central Cemetery and Lexi and Jeff Klarman of W. Clancy Funeral Home, captains of St. Agnes Cemetery; and help from Jerry and Nicole Staunton with the laying of wreaths at St. Mary’s Cemetery and Mill Plain Cemetery. Additionally, Hally thanked Bill O’Brien for providing his photography services, including putting together a group photo of all the volunteers at the ceremony that morning.
In total, the wreaths laid by volunteers at Branford cemeteries visiting military graves on December 18 included 1,004 wreaths at St. Agnes, 330 at Central Cemetery, 145 at Tabor, 125 at Stony Creek, 27 at St. 5 in Mill Road and 4 in Damascus. Additionally, 18 wreaths honoring the city’s fallen service members were placed in schools and city parks.
Representatives hold specially decorated wreaths honoring branches of the military during the Wreaths Across America Ceremony Dec. 18 at St. Agnes Cemetery. Pam Johnson / The Sound
Branford WAA organizer Mark Hally, left, poses for a photo with Dan Woermer of Naugatuck, a quality supervisor for Lockheed Martin, owner of Sikorsky Aircraft, who donated $9,000 to the effort to Branford. Woermer, a quality supervisor for the company, came to Branford for the ceremony and to help as a volunteer with laying the wreaths. Pam Johnson/The Sound
Branford Fire Deparment Color Guard issuing the colors at the December 18 ceremony. Pam Johnson / The Sound
Members of Stony Creek Fife & Drum Corps provided patriotic music for the December 18 ceremony. Pam Johnson/The Sound
Some of the specially decorated military crowns displayed during the ceremony. Pam Johnson/The Sound
Before deploying to lay wreaths at the military graves, volunteers gather for a group photo orchestrated by photographer Bill O’Brien (foreground) at St. Agnes Cemetery. Pam Johnson/The Sound