Death, no matter when or how it comes, is an inevitable part of life, yet we're never prepared to say goodbye to a family member or friend.
This month, we had to do just that. We said, "until we meet again" to a member of the Civil Air Patrol and long-time supporter of Wreaths Across America.
Richard Gammon was born May 17, 1943, in the Widow Brown’s Tavern, later Barrett’s Farm, a historic part of the history of Concord, Massachusetts. Upon graduating from Concord-Carlisle High School, he joined the U.S. Air Force. He would go on to marry his wife Marcia, and they welcomed the birth of their daughter Brenda while stationed in the Netherlands. They returned stateside, and Rick retired from the Airforce in 1983. He and his family eventually settled in Maine where Rick began a broadcasting career working in radio and television.
For years, Rick served as a driver for the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) before suffering a massive heart attack in 2006. He was brought back from the brink of death by the firefighters and paramedics of the Bangor Fire Department, station 6. For the next 11 years, Rick would show all who knew and loved him what it meant to live life to the fullest.
In October of 2007, Rick joined the Bangor-Brewer Squadron of Civil Air Patrol as a logistics officer. He served in the position for several years and was recognized by the squadron and the Maine Wing for running one of the best logistics programs in the Wing. In October of 2014, Maj Gammon accepted the position of Squadron Commander for the Bangor squadron. This position required him to lead 40 plus members to achieve the missions of Civil Air Patrol. Maj Gammon connected to his staff and cadets both personally and professionally and assisted all of us in becoming better people.
On top of the day to day duties of running a squadron, Maj Gammon became a mission scanner and observer flying fire watch missions.
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, and in fact, his daughter Brenda shared with us one cadet credits Rick with preventing his suicide attempt.
CAP Lt. Col Cathie Spaulding said, "Maj Richard Gammon’s accomplishments were truly outstanding and reflected great credit upon himself, Maine Wing and the Civil Air Patrol."
What we will all remember most and cherish forever is Rick's positive attitude and sense of humor on display here in one of his many "photobomb" opportunities.
This video was produced back in October of 2015 when I had the privilege and honor to fly with Maj Rick Gammon and Col James Jordan.
Maj Rick Gammon has become and will continue to be one of the 100 Reasons Why We Remember, Honor, and Teach as we Countdown to Wreath 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."
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.