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 special stories will introduce you to the men and women of the industry who make the mission possible.
"I see the effort with Wreaths Across America as just one way to give a little something back to our military and their families," expresses Shepard Dunn, President, and CEO of Bestway Express of Vincennes, Indiana who has been volunteering for Wreaths Across America for six years.
Shepard originally learned of Wreaths Across America through his friendships with industry icons Barry Pottle and the late Bob Baylor. He got better acquainted with the mission to remember, honor, and teach through the American Trucking Associations (ATA) and his leadership involvement with the Truckload Carrier Association (TCA). Not only has Shepard invested his time he's shared the experience and lessons of respect and community service with his family.
"I told my wife we've got to do this; it's good stuff," recalls Shepard after his first visit alone to witness Arlington National Cemetery on National Wreaths Across America Day. "Each year I've taken one of my three children, and it was a great experience for them. They got to see what giving is with this organization. We just got more and more involved as the years went on."
Last year, Shepard and his wife shuttled Gold Star families in the annual wreath Escort to Arlington.
"Wow, what a trip! What a fabulous trip! It was grueling and difficult with a lot of folks getting sick with colds or flu, but it was great people doing amazing things, and we were so happy to be a part of it," Shepard reminisces.
Shepard, Steven Meyer, and Don Queeney have all independently expressed during interviews deep pride in their company's service and commitment to remembering our nation's fallen heroes and honoring their families.
"We [Bestway Express] began hauling wreaths five or six years ago from Maine down to Virginia, not as part of the Escort but as one of the trucks staged inside the cemetery," explains Shepard. "The operations team always pick among our employees who are veterans to take the load into Arlington, and we typically have to take these gentlemen off the road for about two weeks. We're based out of Indiana and don't run East, much less to Maine, so we'll broker a load out to Boston and then deadhead them (no revenue) to Columbia Falls, Maine to pick up the wreaths. They're proud to be involved, all the company employees like it, and hopefully Bestway will stay involved for a long time to come."
Shepard goes on to explain why he believes so strongly in his volunteer commitment and his eagerness to engage more people to sponsor remembrance wreaths and get involved in their communities.
"It makes these drivers feel good about themselves, it makes them feel good about their companies, it makes them feel good about their country and being Americans. They're so proud and when you've got all those things working in the same direction that's a win-win for everybody. I don't know if that was the original vision of Morrill and Karen's [Worcester], but I promise you that's real and it touches a lot of lives. Good stuff."
Thank you, Shepard Dunn and Bestway Express for your patriotism and tireless support of Wreaths Across America.
You can hear more from Shepard and other patriots in our "Trucking Tributes" on Wreaths Across America Radio weekdays at 11:00 AM and again at 4:00 PM Eastern.
*Editor's note: At the time of Shepard's interview for this story he was the CEO of Bestway Express. Shepard's starting a new position with CFI in Joplin, Missouri.
"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."
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"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.
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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.