American pride, patriotism, and sense of duty run deep in members of our nation's armed forces. Those traits are shared by their families too, and during deployments, they must summon great strength and courage to mask their fears and insecurities about their service member's safety while keeping the home front functional. That's especially true when children make up the military family.
It's a tremendous burden and Wreaths Across America is passionate about supporting military families as we expand throughout the country the mission to remember our fallen, honor those who serve, and teach younger generations the value of freedom.
One woman who has joined the growing number of Wreaths Across America volunteers knows more than most about the sacrifices made by military families, and she's Taya Kyle author and executive director of the Chris Kyle Frogg Foundation.
"The whole concept of the wreath is for the living," Taya shares. "It tells families that their loved one's sacrifice was not for nothing. The people in this country get it, and they remember. It's not that while your loved one is serving people get it and thank you, but it's that they remember you lost him. They'll remember years from now that you lost someone precious to you, and it was for all of us. That's a really big deal."
The precious gift Taya and her two children lost for all of us was U.S. Navy SEAL, Chief Christopher Kyle, also known as the most lethal sniper in U.S. history. American Sniper, written in 2012 by Chris and American Wife authored by Taya in 2015 after his death gives the reader a raw and realistic insight into the pain, suffering, and readjustments they experienced as a military family.
Taya says supporting military families in your community can take on many different forms and it's important to remember they will rarely ask directly for help because by nature and training they're accustomed to serving others and don't want to be a burden.
"It's tough to suggest ideas because families and deployment scenarios are all different, but to give you an idea while Chris was deployed, my neighbor showed his support in a unique and thoughtful way. He couldn't afford to pay for separate lawn services, so he had his lawn care company do his house one week and then mine the next week. It was an incredible gesture, and he just did it because he knew if he had asked me I would have said no," Taya admits. "It's those little day-to-day life things that most family members are drowning in when their loved one is deployed."
Military families, like law enforcement personnel also experience, and process a whole host of emotions and challenges most civilians would never consider, and as a result often feel a sense of isolation. Since Chris's death, Taya has devoted her time and energy raising their two children and working with military and first responder families.
"The divorce rate when we were in was at ninety-seven percent," Taya explains. "Imagine that, among men and women who believe in honor, ability, service, and something bigger than themselves. That tells you there are obstacles facing these couples they're not prepared for in this job of fighting evil. There are reasons why your spouse may not want to tell you about his or her day; they've seen and experienced the worst-of-the-worst and don't want to bring that home. Chris and I had a strong bond, and we talked about everything, but there were things he didn't tell me because he didn't want me to worry the next time he went out."
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.
"Wreaths Across America and its supporters are showing the world that you love these service members and remember they were a cherished member of someone's family. It's powerful."
You can hear more from Taya Kyle on supporting military families and other inspirational stories for and about our veterans on WAA Radio.
"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.
Kevin says driving Armellini's load of wreaths in the escort to VA National Cemetery in Lake Worth along with the Walmart trucks is a meaningful experience for him emotionally because of honoring veterans, but he says there's also a more physical kind of excitement as a professional driver.
Starting at the end of this month, as we countdown to Wreath Day, we would like to invite you to appear on our national webcast/webinar series to tell us about the local veterans buried in your community. We will also run your interview on WAA Radio and share on social media and in the newsletter.
"If we don't teach this younger generation that freedom is not free they're going to forget and not understand the sacrifice made by these men and women who keep us free and safe. I don't know where this country would be if not for the brave people who step up and volunteer to serve in our military. It's really scary to think of where we'd be without a powerful military."
Thinking about Christmas during July provides us with the perfect opportunity to encourage others to get involved with our mission by sharing the stories of their hometown heroes while explaining, however, to those not familiar we're not "decorating graves."