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.
"it's an experience that's hard to explain, but once you've seen what Wreaths Across America does and you get involved you'll want to stay involved every year. It's so moving."
That's according to Danny Smith who is an over-the-road driver for Big G Express out of Shelbyville, Tennesse. He's been with the company since it started in 1995 and two years ago celebrated his 3-Million Accident-Free Safe Miles with BIG G. In 2015, Danny was named the TCA Driver of the Year, and he also served as a member of the ATA's America's Road Team from 2015-2016.
His first introduction to Wreaths Across America was in 2015 when he traveled to Columbia Falls, Maine to pick up a truckload of remembrance wreaths and transported them to Arlington National Cemetery. In 2016, he transported wreaths from a cross dock in Mississippi an delivered to cemeteries in Middle Tennessee.
"We were on our own coming back, but several of us met up at a truck stop up in Maryland. A lot of people knew what was going on and we had decals and images on our trucks and trailers. It was so moving coming down I95 because people were waving flags, honking their horns, giving us thumbs up, and saluting us."
That experience the Friday before National Wreaths Across America Day was touching enough but when wreath day arrived the next day Danny experienced the "power of the wreath."
"I was one of about 63 trucks filled with wreaths that were staged in Arlington that year," Danny recalls. "It was one of the most moving and humbling experiences I've ever had as a truck driver. To see the thousands of people showing up to lay wreaths and within an hour and a half, the whole cemetery was covered with wreaths. It was simply amazing."
Danny says he never served in the U.S. Armed Forces, but he makes a connection, as so many drivers do, between military service and a trucking career.
"It's a rough life. You have to be disciplined, and you're away from your family for days at a time," Danny explains. "Trucking is a good fit for people coming out of the military. We do everything we can to honor our veterans at Big G Express."
While Danny was not part of the Annual Wreath Escort from Maine to Arlington last year, he was still able to experience the patriotism and pride associated with being a member of the Wreaths Across America honor fleet.
Stephen Richardson is a dedicated driver for BIG G Express and hauls barrels for the Jack Daniels Distillery. When Stephen was looking for employment, a friend of his at Big G told him about the company, and he's been a part of the family for 17 years. From 1986-1991 Stephen served in the U.S. Army with most of his time served spent in Germany.
"My military career gave me a great start in the trucking industry," Stephen proudly states. "My MOS was ammunition supply, and we would deliver ammo out in the field all times of the day and night."
A military veteran and member of the Tennessee Trucking Association through Big G Express Stephen was the first driver for Big G to transport America's respect in 2014.
"As a military veteran, it was powerful to learn about the history and evolution of Wreaths Across America and it was overwhelming to know I was serving other veterans by being involved."
Stephen shares his most memorable moment from being at Arlington for the first time, which he says, taught him new lessons about dignity and respect.
"There was a limousine that pulled up in front of the gate on Memorial Drive and I could see the brass. An older gentleman in uniform was struggling to get out of the car and stand. Two younger men went over to assist him. His dignity wouldn't allow that and he told them that he was going to walk through that gate because the next time he would be carried. He was an old General there to honor those who came before him. That will stay with me for the rest of my life."
Stephen and Danny both speak with pride about the involvement of Big G Express in Wreaths Across America's mission to remember, honor, and teach
Thank you, Danny, Stephen and the entire Big G Express family for your patriotism and tireless support of the Wreaths Across America mission to remember, honor and teach.
You can hear more from Danny and Stephen 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."