Volunteers lay wreaths across Wareham, lest we forget

Dec 17, 2022

When Mike Ward graduated from high school in 1966, he took a physical in hopes of joining the Marines.

He did not pass the physical, but as Chairman of the Wareham Elks Veterans Committee, he has the chance to serve those who did serve.

Joined by veterans and those passionate about Wareham’s heritage, Ward helped lay wreaths at Wareham’s cemeteries and war memorials on the wet, windy morning of Saturday, Dec. 17 — National Wreaths Across America day.

“It’s to honor our veterans,” said Ward, wearing an American flag jacket, “and those who didn’t come back. It’s an honor to do what I do.”

The wreaths were donated by Joyce Holster of the Wareham Garden Club, an Air Force veteran herself.

“God bless America,” Holster said as she laid her wreath at the Civil War memorial in Town Green. 

“There’s almost 2 million wreaths that are being laid at 1,700 locations [today],” said Bob Powliatis, commander of the American Legion Post 220 and president of the Friends of the Wareham Veterans Council. “Our wreath is special because it was not only made by the Wareham Garden Club, but we have a yellow ribbon for those who served, we’re praying for them, and we have a poppy for those who gave the sacrifice of life for this country over the years.”

Powliatis said that he partakes in the annual tradition so that America does not forget its past.

“It’s special to us, this group that’s here,” he said. “If we didn’t continue to do this, [veterans] would be forgotten.” 

At the Veterans Memorial in front of Town Hall, Powliatis carefully tied the wreath to its stand. He placed the wreath in the mulch beside the memorial, so it wouldn’t blow away in the wind.

“They need some concrete to fill that in,” he said as he jiggled the plaque on the memorial, which read “Dedicated by the citizens of Wareham.” “Somebody’s going to steal that.” 

At 80 years old, Powliatis acknowledges that he and Ward, 74, won’t be able to do this much longer.

“We’re getting older,” he said. “Pretty soon they’ll forget about Vietnam and World War II and World War I, what they did.” 

Powliatis joked that standing between him and Ward, Wareham Historical Society President Angela Dunham was “a rose between two thorns.”

“That’s a first,” Dunham replied.

The last and most significant moment for Powliatis on Saturday was the laying of the wreath at the Hero’s Circle Monument in Bourne’s National Cemetery. Powliatis and Ted Hatch of the Wareham Elks spearheaded the construction of the monument, fundraising with the help of organizations across Massachusetts. The monument was dedicated in 2018. 

“There was nothing there,” Powliatis said proudly. “Now there’s a landmark at the National Cemetery.”