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.
Much like the military it supports, the success of Wreaths Across America comes from individuals throughout the country motivated by patriotism, honor, pride, a sense of duty and respect.
When you speak with Jimmy Shaw about his involvement with Wreaths Across America its difficult not to get caught up in his enthusiasm for and commitment to the organization's mission to remember, honor and teach.
The trucking industry has always been a part of Jimmy's life, and he's been a professional driver for almost forty years. In April, he celebrates his seventh year driving for Tyson Foods, Inc.
Jimmy is also a veteran of the U.S. Army having served with the 9th Infantry Division and then the 82nd Airborne, and he ultimately wound up in Germany with the 2nd Battalion 37th Armored in the 1st Armored Division on a mortar platoon providing infantry support.
Jimmy and his family have a long history of service to the nation with his father, Elmer Elroy Shaw, serving during the Korean War, and an uncle was in the U.S. Navy also during the Korean War. One of Jimmy's brothers and cousin served in Vietnam, and both of his sons have served; one was deployed to Iraq, the other Afghanistan.
"The drivers I picked last year to be involved said Jimmy we keep hearing you talk about it all the time but it doesn't click until you do it," Jimmy confirms. "From the day you get picked to get involved it just energizes you. You're proud to get involved, and from the moment you close your trailer door, and the last wreath is laid on National Wreaths Across America Day, you get started planning for next December."
Jimmy expresses why he feels so strongly about supporting the mission, particularly the teach objective.
"I believe the way the country is right now, they need to teach the younger generation to remember, honor, and respect our fallen and the men and women who are serving today. When I see people burning the flag and disrespecting the military, it just brings tears to my eyes. The people of today just don't understand what it takes to defend a nation."
It was inspiring last year when Jimmy and his wife Cathy realized their volunteer effort with Wreaths Across America was helping the organization grow and indeed making an impression on younger generations.
"My wife and I met a 16-year-old young woman who was coordinating a wreath laying ceremony in Maryland, and she blew us out of the water," Jimmy proudly stated. "She organized the whole event herself, got a General to come speak at the ceremony and when we had a tough time reaching her, she apologized and told us she was in school. She was amazing, and that's what it's all about, teaching the children. She had me in tears."
Jimmy says he's proud to represent Tyson Foods, Inc. and their support of Wreaths Across America. Every year, Tyson has increased its level of support to include more volunteers, additional trucks hauling wreaths, and food to feed drivers, Gold Star and Blue Star families, veterans and other VIP's during the Annual Wreath Escort to Arlington National Cemetery send-off dinner held at WAA Headquarters in Columbia Falls, Maine.
Thank you, Jimmy Shaw and Tyson Foods, Inc. for your patriotism and tireless support of Wreaths Across America. You can hear more from Jimmy in our "Trucking Tributes" on Wreaths Across America Radio weekdays at 11:00 AM and again at 4:00 PM Eastern.
"When it comes to Wreaths Across America, we don't do what we do for the applause of men; we do it because of how important it is to the Gold Star families we've connected with over the years."
"We knew at the time it was inevitable he'd be deployed," Scott explains. "He was just a few days shy of being promoted to Sergeant when his Humvee hit an IED (improvised explosive device) in Iraq."
"I remember being in the cemetery years ago and seeing one section, it was the World War I section, near Fort Myer that was all covered in wreaths, and I was wondering who the heck put them there," Jari explains. "I know what struck me about it. It was an old section that no family members would be coming to visit."
"They have to learn and understand the history to know of all the people who have given their lives to make this country what it is today. We're honored and proud to be part of Wreaths Across America and we look forward to being part of the future."
Like any military maneuver, music performance requires individual excellence in a synchronized effort that requires discipline to achieve the desired goal.
They know they have come to serve those who served us by placing a remembrance wreath on their headstone while saying their name. Like Al, every volunteer we speak with says they come away from the day knowing they have contributed to something so much bigger than themselves.
"The statue now serves as inspiration for young people to say yes, the military is something that we should support because they come to rescue life. They don't always come to conquer the land and certainly not American soldiers. We don't go anywhere to conquer lands we go to help liberate people."
"As the saying goes we all gave some, but some gave all, and that resonates with me all the time," explains Vince. "This is our way of giving back and paying tribute to the fallen because those people are the heroes."
"We seem to be at a time in history when Americans are having a hard time agreeing on anything. We’re divided in so many ways. But at the heart of it, most of us can agree on one thing: We are Americans."
"It was really hard because I couldn't hug her. As soon as she put her hand on the wreath, I started to cry, and I could tell she was starting to tear up."
In her keynote address, Karen Worcester thanked the UMA for the honor and shared a personal story of why Wreaths Across America does what it does. In a heartfelt and often tearful delivery, Karen told the story of Edith Knowles, a Gold Star Sister who lost her brother, Bud, during World War II.
I knew I had the contacts in the trucking industry," Barry explains of his initial involvement with the organization. "I just had to get people to believe in Wreaths Across America they way I did."
"She truly gets the Wreaths Across America mission to remember, honor and teach and how important it is to our families but most importantly the families of those who have served."
"When you see thousands of volunteers flood through the gates to lay wreaths, it does help restore your faith in America and that our country has not lost its core value of appreciating the sacrifice of our soldiers and veterans and saluting them while teaching the next generation how important it is to remember."
Taya says the best way to show appreciation and respect for military families is through simple gestures like the one Wreaths Across America's founder Morrill Worcester made back in 1992 when he laid the first hand-made balsam fir remembrance wreath on the headstone of a fallen hero in Arlington National Cemetery.
Her parents, Vernon and Regina Garner represented the true American dream. They were a young entrepreneurial couple creating a business to share with future generations of their family. Garner Trucking started in 1960 with one truck and has grown to over one hundred trucks and four hundred trailers today.
"With the most gentle little kisses using the very tip of his tongue like a little butterfly he licked the tears off my cheek as if he was saying, 'Mom, I've got you, don't worry I'm right here with you."
“We didn’t understand the scope of the effort though until we attended the event. The energy and enthusiasm for WAA was mind-blowing and we left with great contacts and started to formulate a proposal right away for the executive team to consider getting involved with the mission.”
"I was very determined to survive the war. I never thought I would not survive. If I had allowed myself to think that I would have been done. My big goal was to revenge my past but not with bitterness and vengeance."
Jeff says a lot of drivers who work for Buchheit think it would be exciting to participate in the Wreaths Across America effort. They're right! However, hauling a truckload of America's respect is a privileged duty reserved for certain employees.