It was designed to be inspiring, educational, and free.
But it was also built on wheels and will soon be on the road to its next destination.
The Wreaths Across America mobile education exhibit visited Bakersfield for the first time on Thursday to share its mission to “remember, honor, teach,” said Jennifer Merrill, exhibition ambassador mobile on education.
“We’ve been to many places – 77 events in 54 cities last year.” Merrill said at 9 a.m. on Thursday as the mobile exhibit opened to visitors.
Since February, the mobile unit and its two-person staff have visited Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, Texas, Arkansas – and now California, she said.
The limited space inside is filled with information boards, photos, and a small theater where visitors can watch a 12-minute video that explains how Wreaths started and how its mission formed.
It was started by Maine businessman Morrill Worcester in 1992, but a family’s effort would grow by 2007 into a national program which now attracts millions of volunteers who lay wreaths on millions of graves of veterans.
“They’re generating interest. I understand that,” said Florn Core, who visited the mobile exhibit Thursday morning.
It is important, said Core, that Americans keep in mind the service and sacrifices made by millions of soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen over the course of the country’s history.
“There are several programs and ceremonies that take place (annually),” he said. “Anything that could extend any of them, I think, is a great idea.”
The mobile unit was parked outside the Portrait of a Warrior gallery on Eye Street in the downtown Bakersfield district.
“It’s a perfect solution for us,” said Lili Marsh, co-founder of the gallery that hosted the Wreaths exhibition.
Joshua Dhanens, director of the Kern County Veteran Services Department, also came to view the mobile exhibit. Dhanens served in the United States Army from 1996 to 2001, then served four more years in the Army National Guard.
“I think Kern County is really special in the way we honor and remember veterans and active duty members,” he said.
Many veterans pass by, he said, especially veterans of World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam. This means that Bakersfield National Cemetery, located in the foothills east of Bakersfield, is simply growing in number by the number of its graves.
The next Wreath Day across America will be on December 18. Local volunteers will certainly answer the call.
Journalist Steven Mayer can be reached at 661-395-7353. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @semayerTBC.