BANGOR, Maine (WABI) What started out as a 12-year-old's trip to Arlington National Cemetery has turned into one of the world's most well-known tributes to veterans who have made the ultimate sacrifice.
That boy, a Maine native, is now the founder of Wreaths Across America.
The non-profit's mission is simple: Remember. Honor. Teach.
Fred Thompson, Exhibit Volunteer says, "Our ultimate goal is every veteran's grave will have a wreath on it."
Wreaths Across America's Traveling Education Exhibit has been visiting states across the country teaching the organization's core mission.
Thompson says, "Remember the fallen. Honor those who have served. Teach the young people the value of freedom and to get people to understand that the freedoms we enjoy in America, someone has always paid the price."
For the past month, Thompson and his wife have voluntarily taken the 48-foot trailer to locations here in Maine.
He says, "When you see the good that this does, when you see the families of veterans, veterans themselves and how much it means to them, you can't help but be touched by it, and you just want to be a part of it."
This stop, Quirk Chevrolet in Bangor, which helped to foster the relationship between the automobile company and Wreaths Across America that led to the donation of the mobile education unit.
Joe Quirk, General Manager says, "It's amazing to see what they've had and what they've become over the years and to be able to be a part of building that has been amazing."
Visitors have an opportunity to explore and honor fallen veterans as well as learn more about the organization through videos, interactive connections, and a knowledgeable staff.
Hayden Rollins and his younger brothers visited the exhibit. He says, "It's really cool seeing how many people appreciate what they did to give us freedom."
Thompson says, "At some point, we're going to have this thing all the way across the country. The more people we get involved, the better the chances for us to reach that goal of every veteran's grave having a wreath on it in December."
Last year, the organization laid about 1.8 million wreaths on veteran's graves. This year, they say they're projecting that number to increase to almost 2.1 million.
The Traveling Education Exhibit will be at O'Connor Auto Park on Riverside Drive in Augusta Thursday from 10 until 3.
It's free for anyone wanting to visit.
To learn more about ways to volunteer for the organization, you can visit wreathsacrossamerica.org.