Wreaths Across America receives no government funding to support operations. Motivated and dedicated patriots across the country and at locations overseas power the Maine-based nonprofit organization. The mission to remember, honor, and teach is carried out daily by millions of citizens who care deeply for those who have served our nation in the armed forces, and their families. Some of these remarkable individuals are veterans themselves or come from military families while others are driven by a deep sense of patriotism and community service.
Placing fresh, hand-made balsam remembrance wreaths on the headstones of veterans across the country in December requires tremendous logistics and unyielding support from the trucking industry.
Wreaths Across America shows its gratitude and appreciation for all those involved in transporting America's respect with "Trucking Tributes." These stories will introduce you to the men and women of the industry who make the mission possible.
When you think about massive trucking logistics, supply and demand, and how the delivery of fresh products supports the backbone of America you may likely turn your thoughts to the Wreaths Across America effort now underway as we continue our Countdown to Wreath Day, Saturday, December 16, 2017.
However, Wreaths Across America thinks about our system of supermarkets throughout the nation and the crucial role they play in our lives regarding transporting consumables and other products. What customers may not see every day though or hear about is the pride employees feel knowing their employers support the communities in which they live and work.
Granville "Dick" Brown and Paul Maille are professional drivers for Hannaford, and it's a competition between them as to who boasts more about Hannaford's support of the Wreaths Across America mission to remember, honor, and teach.
Dick has been employed by Hannaford for 39 years, and after "retiring" as a driver he was brought back as the special events coordinator. He's a self-proclaimed "Jack-of-all-Trades" and enjoys every minute of it.
"Oh, anyone would love to have my job," Dick shares. "The best part is I get to drive an antique truck called "Little Miss Molly," and I drive that around in parades and at specials events like touch-a-trucks and store openings. It's a 1948 Chevy farm truck. Anywhere there's a Hannaford store location you'll find Hannaford is very involved in community affairs and events."
Don't be fooled, however. Dick's job is not all fun and games. He has a tremendous responsibility coordinating logistics for members of Hannaford's Wreaths Across America honor fleet transporting remembrance wreaths from Columbia Falls, Maine to Arlington National Cemetery.
"We have a deadline for drivers to sign up to participate and then we have a drawing," Dick explains. "If a driver is a veteran, his or her name goes into the hat twice. Every year I have people approach me and say that if someone for whatever reason can't make the trip they want to be put on the backup list. I haven't had a driver yet come back from the experience with a dry eye."
Paul is one of those drivers, and he's been in the transportation business since 1977 driving for Hannaford for the past 13 years. Last year, he transported America's respect to Arlington, and he recalls his emotion driving down Memorial Drive.
"One thing I will never forget is getting into Arlington and it was a cold, rainy day with freezing rain, and I remember looking around at all the empty headstones thinking to myself oh my God how are we going to do this. Then volunteers showed up by the thousands, from ages ten to into their 70's and even older, "Paul recalls choked up with emotion. "Not one person ever complained about the weather, and it was an amazing feeling only a few hours later to see the entire cemetery covered with wreaths. I told my boss later it was like driving through the gates of Heaven."
Paul says even though he never served in the military he was deeply moved by the show of patriotism along the Annual Wreath Escort route.
"Seeing the greeting in every town we went through with kids out waving American flags and shouting thank you. I can only imagine how the veterans who are drivers must have felt."
Paul says he believes in the value of teaching younger generations about the sacrifices our military families have endured to ensure our liberties.
"I don't think young people really understand what their grandfathers, fathers, or aunts and uncles went through to keep us safe, or to liberate others."
In addition to supporting the Wreaths Across America mission with drivers and trucks for the honor fleet, Hannaford supplies food for the driver's lounge in Columbia Falls and some of the convoy stops along the escort route.
Thank you, Dick, Paul and the entire Hannaford team for your patriotism and tireless support of the Wreaths Across America mission to remember, honor and teach.
You can hear more from Dick, Paul, and our other patriots in our "Trucking Tributes" on Wreaths Across America Radio at 11:00 AM and again at 4:00 PM Eastern Monday-Friday.
The many stops along the way at schools, veterans organizations, police and fire stations were also overflowing with love and good wishes.
I want my daughter to grow up understanding what true heroes are and the sacrifices that have been made for us to live in a free country.
Complete strangers just moments before, together, Denny and Ella read the name on her grandfather's headstone and talked some about him while laying his wreath.
"When she explained to us what Wreaths Across America is and does, it was a no-brainer for me that we would get involved."
On behalf of her father Rod, Cindi shared her grandfather's words with the audience during the memorial service. You can hear her presentation and see other highlights from the service in this video.
These two quiet and humble individuals are a team dedicated to giving back to their nation. They educate others by sharing their experiences and lessons of love and sacrifice not just from the war but the other "battlefields of life."
To better serve our volunteers in 2018 and beyond, we're reorganizing and providing more tools to support their inspiring efforts.
"I witnessed a few of the boys laying an "in honor of" wreath. They did it with reverence."
Guided by an infrangible faith when the supply of lifejackets ran out they gave up their own to save the lives of others.
"I went up to that hill and looked at all of those graves of my colleagues who have gone before me.
Volunteers planning to assist in removing wreaths are asked to attend a short briefing at the McClellan Gate at 8:30 a.m. and to follow these guidelines.
As witnessed through this video, the volunteer commitment of patriotic citizens is a year-round effort that culminates in a remarkable day of unity, friendship, and healing.
Some give the ultimate sacrifice of a loved one and are often left in sorrow to wonder if other citizens remember or appreciate what they gave up for liberty and justice for all.
Wreaths Across America knows some of the finest musicians out there are members of our military performance groups. Each month, we like to feature the musical works of those talented individuals.
Each live, balsam remembrance wreath is a gift of respect and appreciation, donated by a private citizen or organization and placed on the graves by volunteers as a small gesture of gratitude for the freedoms Americans enjoy.
In just a few days, Paulette and her fellow Troop Greeters will welcome veterans, Gold Star families, and other traveling dignitaries who are part of the Annual Wreath Escort to Arlington National Cemetery.
Grand Marshals – Vietnam Medal of Honor Recipient, Colonel Roger Donlon, U.S. Army Special Forces (Retired) and his wife, Norma, a Vietnam-era Gold Star wife – will lead the caravan as it travels down the East Coast stopping at schools, memorials, and other locations along the way.
Driver Pat Wortham is an independent contractor for Dart Transit and a member of the Wreaths Across America honor fleet. He also has a rich history of military service in his family.
The holidays are traditionally celebrated with music so tune into WAA Radio throughout the holidays to hear musical Season's Greetings from some of the finest musicians in America!
"I was only 21 at the time, and we didn't know what we had come upon. The conditions were horrible, and there were all those people in striped pajamas."
"This contribution, like the one we made last year, will help provide an opportunity for professional drivers to transport wreaths across the United States.
Rhonda says she's experienced the "power of the wreath" watching people react to her daughter's presentations.
The telegram from the Department of War said that Albert and two other men had been shot down near Wollseifen, Germany, on Dec. 12, and that they had been missing since.
Yes! There's still time to sponsor a veterans' remembrance wreath in time for National Wreaths Across America Day.
"We were replacements," explained Charles. "My best friend Luke Moore and I went over together. He was a First scout, and I was a Second scout. We were taking a town when we were shot at by a sniper..."
Wreaths Across America is forever grateful for the thousands of volunteers who place veterans' remembrance wreaths on the headstones of our fallen as they say their names aloud every December. Remember, we are guests on the hallowed grounds of participating cemeteries and we ask that you honor their rules and regulations. If you're volunteering at Arlington this year, here's what you need to know.
Wreaths Across America announces open loads available as the Honor Fleet expands to transport America's Respect.
"I remember back then when we were told several times Vincent wouldn't make it through the night and I went to the chapel and said, 'God is there anything I can do to change your mind? He's our only son."
"One thing I will never forget is getting into Arlington and it was a cold, rainy day with freezing rain, and I remember looking around at all the empty headstones thinking to myself oh my God how are we going to do this."
"As part of our Wreaths Across America project, we work with the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts, the Explorers, Young Marines, and sometimes 4H members," Mike explains. "We try to engage our groups the way that I think the founder of Wreaths Across America intended."