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.
Like Wreaths Across America, one man's entrepreneurial spirit back in 1934 laid the foundation for Buchheit Logistics in Missouri.
"My grandfather started off with a truck hauling anything he could get his hands on initially and then a little saloon came up for sale," explains Jeff Buchheit, Vice President of Transportation and Logistics for Buchheit. "He got a loan from his father-in-law, made a down payment on the saloon and opened up an old-fashioned general store. At night he'd find what his customers needed in St Louis and would haul that back to the store."
Today, the third generation family operation has expanded into three divisions; Retail, Agriculture and Transportation and Logistics with over a million square feet of warehouse space in Missouri and eastern Pennsylvania.
Jeff says he had heard about Wreaths Across America but it wasn't until he attended a TCA conference a few years ago that he decided to get involved with the mission to remember, honor and teach.
"In 2015 we hauled one load, and just last year we signed up for two," explains Jeff. "Each year we decorate a trailer and the folks at the Bloomfield Missouri Veterans Cemetery like to use the trailer as a backdrop for their ceremonies. In total, we deliver to five different cemeteries in Missouri and Illinois."
The military service backgrounds within Buchheit are impressive.
"Our President Ron Gjerstad is an Air Force veteran who served in the Vietnam era, our safety director Brad Redden is a twenty-five year plus Navy veteran with multplie deployments around the world, and I served in the National Guard for seventeen years."
Jeff personally understands the sacrifices made by military families.
"My oldest child was born during my deployment to Iraq in 2004," Jeff recalls. "The tough part was not leaving and going over there to do my job. Probably the hardest part of my service was reintegrating and getting back to life as normal when I came home."
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.
"We'll only choose from our group of drivers who have served in the military and that represents about twenty-five percent of our drivers."
Buchheit driver and U.S. Army veteran Thomas Tinnin made the first transport in 2015 and in 2016 Jim Griffaw, Howard Hall, and John White drove as you'll see in these videos that beautifully demonstrate the spirit of patriotism and pride exhibited by Jeff's company and community.
As so many of our volunteers tell us, they believe strongly in the Wreaths Across America mission objective to teach younger generations the value of freedom and the price paid for that freedom. Jeff echoes that sentiment and has involved his three children in the cemetery ceremonies.
"They enjoy it and look forward to it every year. When December rolls around, they ask if we're going to do the wreaths on the headstones again this year."
Thank you, Jeff and Buchheit Logistics for your patriotism and tireless support of Wreaths Across America. You can hear more from Jeff in our "Trucking Tributes" on Wreaths Across America Radio weekdays at 11:00 AM and again at 4:00 PM Eastern.
"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.
One highlight from this year's performance came when Six-String Soldiers invited children of all ages to the stage to sing along with them, the Rick Charrette song, I'm An American! It echoed through the valley where replica dog tags of fallen heroes hang among the balsam fir trees' tips that will be used to make veterans remembrance wreaths.
"Rain, snow, or sunshine as you know these guys walk the walk, so we're here to dedicate this section of the tip land to the Old Guard," proclaims Wayne Hanson, Chairman of the Board for Wreaths Across America. "We certainly appreciate everything they do for us."
It was, in fact, a competitor of Abilene Motor Express who reached out to them to tell them about Wreaths Across America and Will says once the owners, Keith and Kolen Jones heard about the effort they were one hundred percent behind it right away.
Especially meaningful is the location of the Grove, which is adjacent to the soon-to-be-opened Medal of Honor Remembrance Park. From this vantage point, The Old Guard will continue to stand watch over America’s fallen heroes.