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.
As the only fully-integrated recycling provider in Central Texas, TDS joined in the effort to remember, honor and teach by donating their services.
All of the 30 Medal of Honor Recipients in attendance during the four days of events were glad to have a chance to meet Morrill and Karen.
The goal of the S.W.A.T. training is to create a core "support group" for location and fundraising volunteers with more experienced leaders joining the ranks every year.
"If you're an American, you're proud to do it. I know it's probably one of the best things I've done every year."
Mission Matters with Karen Worcester is a new program heard only on Wednesdays on Wreaths Across America Radio. Here's the schedule of the shows coming up and a link to the station.
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.