The Wreaths Across America convoy can only be described as awesome.

This massive convoy that comes through our towns each year bringing Maine-made wreaths to Arlington National Cemetery has become the world's largest veterans' parade. The combination of the convoy and the crowds that gather to cheer it on has become a tradition that mixes patriotism, gratitude and holiday spirit.

It all started with a business in Maine. "Morrill Worcester, owner of Worcester Wreath Company of Harrington, Maine, was a 12-year-old paper boy for the Bangor Daily News when he won a trip to Washington, D.C.," the WAA Facebook page explains. "His first trip to our nation’s capital was one he would never forget, and Arlington National Cemetery made an especially indelible impression on him.

"…In 1992, Worcester Wreath found themselves with a surplus of wreaths nearing the end of the holiday season. Remembering his boyhood experience at Arlington, Worcester realized he had an opportunity to honor our country’s veterans.

"The annual tribute went on quietly for several years, until 2005, when a photo of the stones at Arlington, adorned with wreaths and covered in snow, circulated around the internet. Suddenly, the project received national attention. Thousands of requests poured in from all over the country from people wanting to help with Arlington, to emulate the Arlington project at their national and state cemeteries, or to simply share their stories and thank Morrill Worcester for honoring our nation’s heroes.

"In 2007, the Worcester family, along with veterans, and other groups and individuals who had helped with their annual veterans wreath ceremony in Arlington, formed Wreaths Across America, a nonprofit 501-(c)(3) organization…

"In 2008, over 300 locations held wreath-laying ceremonies in every state, Puerto Rico and 24 overseas cemeteries. Over 100,000 wreaths were placed on veterans’ graves. Over 60,000 volunteers participated. And that year, December 13, 2008, was unanimously voted by the U.S. Congress as Wreaths Across America Day.

"In 2014, Wreaths Across America and its national network of volunteers laid over 700,000 memorial wreaths at 1,000 locations in the United States and beyond, including ceremonies at the Pearl Harbor Memorial, as well as Bunker Hill, Valley Forge and the sites if the September 11 tragedies. This was accomplished with help from 2,047 fundraising groups, corporate contributions, and donations of trucking, shipping, and thousands of helping hands. The organization's goal of covering Arlington National Cemetery was met in 2014 with the placement of 226,525 wreaths."

This is an example of a small idea that was able to blossom into a great undertaking, and it shows what people can accomplish when they are working together as a community.

The dos, the don’ts of shoveling

Dr. Andrew deBethune of Lynch Chiropractic Arts Center was kind enough to send in some tips for avoiding back injury and heart attacks while shoveling snow this winter. When shoveling, he recommends that you:

– Take an athletic stance, with feet staggered and shoulder-width apart.

– When bending forward and lifting, bend at the hip and knee, keeping the spine straight and chest up.

– Avoid twisting the spine while throwing the snow by pivoting your feet and turning your whole body. A good rule of thumb is to have your hips and eyes facing whatever direction you're throwing snow.

– Plan your best approach for clearing snow. Pushing snow is less taxing on the low back than lifting and throwing it.

– Wear boots with a good grip to avoid slips and falls that can result in injury.

– Don't fill the shovel, especially with a wet and heavy snow.

– Take your time and be deliberate, there is no winner in the race to hurting your low back.

Increased risk of a heart attack

Shoveling may be one of the more taxing things you do, especially if you have a relatively sedentary lifestyle.

– Warm up slowly and take your time, with frequent short breaks.

– Get a heart rate monitoring device such as a Fitbit or Garmin and track it while shoveling. According to the American Heart Association, your maximum heart rate is 220 beats per minute minus your age, and the recommended target heart rate zone for exercise is between 50 and 85 percent of your max heart rate. For example, if you are 65 years of age, your max heart rate would be 155 bpm and your target zone 77 to 131 bpm. Typically, you should be able to carry on a conversation while exercising at a comfortable heart rate.

– Avoid stimulants such as caffeine and cigarettes. Using these products increases your heart rate and blood pressure, putting you at further risk for a cardiovascular event.

Don’t let shoveling improperly derail your holidays and dampen your spirit. Stay safe and healthy!