Wreaths Across America emerged from the thoughtful gesture of businessman Morrill Worcester back in 1992 when an error in ordering resulted in him donating five thousand fresh Maine-made balsam fir wreaths to honor fallen heroes buried at Arlington National Cemetery. And so started a grassroots organizing effort to remember, honor, and teach. A truck was going to be necessary to haul those wreaths.
Many a filmmaker and journalist documenting the Wreaths Across America story have inquired about the very first driver to transport America's respect to Arlington National Cemetery. It was James Prout owner of Bluebird Ranch Trucking out of Jonesboro, Maine.
Wreaths Across America honors his memory annually by presenting the James Prout/WAA Spirit of Giving Award selecting a deserving professional truck driver, company or organization that has supported charitable causes in a way that will affect generations to come.
Karen and Morrill Worcester, executive director and founder of WAA, respectively named Wendy Hamilton with the award at the 2017 Annual Truckload Carriers Association Convention in Nashville this week.
Wendy and her company Pilot Flying J were recently profiled in Wreaths Across America's "Trucking Tributes" series. The trucking industry is a vital group when it comes to helping WAA achieve its goal of honoring fallen soldiers each year.
“I am honored to receive the Spirit of Giving Award and will continue to support Wreaths Across America through Pilot Flying J’s relationship with truck drivers, and by spreading the word throughout the industry,” says Wendy.
“The trucking community has been extremely dedicated to Wreaths Across America over the years, but support doesn’t come exclusively from drivers,” Karen Worcester explained. “Some of the most important contributions come from those behind the scenes, like Wendy. Her commitment to helping Wreaths Across America fulfill our mission to Remember, Honor, Teach has proved invaluable, and we are grateful for the opportunity to honor her.”
Wendy enjoys sharing her Wreaths Across America volunteer experience with her husband and young son and encourages other families to participate too.
Anyone who really knows me knows that I am often a walking Wreaths Across America billboard. They will normally see me sporting a WAA-branded sweatshirt or t-shirt, my blue and green WAA wristband and my ever-present WAA baseball cap. I’m proud of my connection with WAA and love to promote what we do and why we do it.
That being said, I want to relate a recent encounter I had while standing in line at our local Social Security Administration (SSA) Office the other day.
Air Force Veteran*, Wayne Merritt, currently manages the Veterans Transportation Program based out of Wreaths Across America Headquarters in Maine. Monday thru Friday, Wayne travels to area towns in the Downeast region to pick up veterans and bring them to their doctors’ appointments. This is just one of the many free programs Wreaths Across America offers to veterans and their families.
Military children worry about their parent’s safety very day. These children face many challenges, frequent moves and lengthy separation due to trainings and deployments. They take on more responsibilities and worry about their parent every day.
"I really don't see it stopping, and we want people to tell us where they see it. Take pictures and videos when you check it out and share them with us on social media."
Debbie says she and the transportation team are excited about new and more efficient systems that will be in place for 2018 and beyond.
To come up with an accurate wreath count for sponsorships, great effort was taken to assure no one was forgotten.
As we approached, Morrill and I began to realize that here laid the body of a very important veteran that we had apparently overlooked for the past 26 years in our annual wreath placement.
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.