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.
"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."
The Civil Air Patrol Cadets meant the world to Rick. For three years he accompanied cadets to Arlington National Cemetery and assisted with laying wreaths at the cemetery. This trip changed the lives of many cadets.
"It was so moving coming down I95 because people were waving flags, honking their horns, giving us thumbs up, and saluting us."
"We have a dedicated group of compassionate people who come together to help military veterans," Rebecca explains. "If someone reaches out to us and says 'hey we need help getting a veteran's roof shingled' then we try to get it done."
“Every year we have so many professional drivers, bikers, police officers and other first responders, ask us how they can get involved, even if they can’t transport wreaths,” said Karen Worcester, executive director, Wreaths Across America.
"There are a lot of similarities between the military and the trucking industry," Rob explains. "I think that's why you see a lot of veterans successful as truck drivers."
Johnny Vet: Freedom Isn’t Free is a dynamic and inspirational musical journey of the men and women who have fought the nation’s wars and how those same men and women, as veterans, have helped to shape the nation and its destiny.
"History can be studied in many ways, and it's important to do so for a contextual understanding of the journey taken by an individual, organization, or nation."
"It's heart-wrenching to see that and participate in that, Rick shares. "To see all the mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunts, and uncles waiting there to have a wreath to place on their family member's headstone, there are just no words for it, none."
"We're just Moms who serve through the organization to make sure that our children's names and lives are not forgotten."
From our standpoint, it's a relatively small thing to do, and we're proud to be a part of the mission."
"With NFI managing the logistics, the sky is the limit. They will help make the entire operation more efficient,” said Debbie Sparks, Director Corporate Development and Community Relations, Wreaths Across America.
Luann started her volunteer efforts with Wreaths Across America in 2015 after hearing about it from a friend who was participating with her DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) group. She's working to sponsor wreaths to cover all of the known heroes laid to rest at Oaklawn.
"I always choose our drivers who are military veterans for these loads and they are proud and honored to have the opportunity to recognize our fallen heroes and their families."
In referencing the Wreaths Across America Stem to Stone Remembrance Tree program Roger spoke to the value and necessity of "planting seeds of patriotism" in younger generations.
Monica explains Maverick has a tremendous amount of pride hauling America's respect and not only do they assign the wreath loads to their drivers who are veterans but those drivers are some of the industry's best.
The September edition of the Military Musicians Showcase goes out to jazz lovers!
As Aaron Van Beek, Location Coordinator for Sioux Center, Iowa placed Chris Kyle's tag in Maine the announcement was made that the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation and Wreaths Across America have agreed to collaborate with the support of their respective programs.
Helen told us about her brother, Ralph H. Johnson, who received the Medal of Honor posthumously following his heroic actions in Vietnam in 1968.
Yes. At Wreaths Across America, we've heard about the "Walmart Heart," and we're honored to be welcoming a group next month that has decided to combine their charity effort with their patriotism and respect.
Brandon says last year spending time at Arlington National Cemetery on National Wreaths Across America Day with fellow employees of Cowan Systems, Inc. was an educational and humbling experience.
"It's been a dream of mine to go back to Arlington with my Mom to be a part of National Wreaths Across America Day to place remembrance wreaths on my grandparents' graves."
According to Gretchen CFI went above and beyond two years ago when they helped make her dream come true.
"When we did that project we had one hundred and thirty-five of our employees at that time who had served in the military and that's a big percentage of employees for one company. We think that it's important to recognize their service."
Christa Parker's love for her son, country, and volunteerism with Wreaths Across America knows no boundaries, quite literally. Her volunteer efforts frequently have her crossing states lines and her stamina and organizational efforts are an inspiration to all.
When asked if he could describe the power of the veterans' remembrance wreath he admitted it was a challenge to put into words, yet hesitated only for a moment.