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.
No one could have ever convinced Wreaths Across America’s founder Morrill Worcester that his thoughtful gesture back in 1992 of donating one truckload of five-thousand wreaths to be placed on the headstones of our fallen over the holidays in Arlington National Cemetery would become a unifying symbol of honor and respect for our nation’s military.
Today with over 1,200 participating locations in addition to Arlington, over two hundred trucking companies and their industry associations are responsible for hauling hundreds of loads of hand-made balsam fir remembrance wreaths out of Washington County, Maine to points throughout the nation.
Stan Hampton, Vice President of Driver Personnel for J.B. Hunt, says he and his boss, Senior VP of Safety and Driver Personnel Greer Woodruff, were invited to a TCA Fundraising Gala for Wreaths Across America three or four years ago.
“We had done a little research and had heard of Wreaths Across America before we went to D.C.,” Stan recalls. “We didn’t understand the scope of the effort though until we attended the event. The energy and enthusiasm for WAA was mind-blowing and we left with great contacts and started to formulate a proposal right away for the executive team to consider getting involved with the mission.”
Stan says from the very beginning there was a great deal of employee engagement at J.B. Hunt.
“That first year we hauled one load from Maine to Arkansas using drivers who were veterans on each leg of the journey,” Stan explains. “We had seven stops in between and had key exchange ceremonies at service centers. As we went along, we collected and shared their stories, and by the time we reached the corporate office, we had quite a following. There was a ceremony in our employee circle with cheers and American flags.”
Stan says several hundred J.B. Hunt employees participate in wreath-laying ceremonies at the cemetery as well.
“The ground swell and emotion of our employees just validated what we had seen in D.C., and we knew it was going to be a cultural thing for J.B. Hunt. “
Since J.B. Hunt’s first year of involvement, they have increased their support from one to eight truckloads of wreaths and have partnered with Walmart to honor the fallen in Arkansas
“We’ve always been strong in veteran recruiting and honoring our veterans. We don’t have any veterans at the executive level at J.B. Hunt, but the involvement from the top down has been strong. The trucking industry is the backbone of America. Things do not just appear on the shelves without transportation and logistics. Being able to do what we do in this country is only delivered through the sacrifice our service members, veterans, and their families make.”
Stan has not served in the military but his brother Darrell has, and he’s also proud of his Grandfather Toy Sams Sands who served in the Navy for twenty years before settling into a trucking career.
Stan says J.B. Hunt looks forward to its continued support of the Wreaths Across America mission and he’ll always be a huge fan working to encourage other volunteers to step up to be sure no hometown hero is ever forgotten.
“Whether it's donating a wreath somewhere and covering the cost for that, or getting involved in laying wreaths at your local cemetery, or driving that load you may never know whose life your impacting by that compassionate gesture during Wreaths Across America Day,” Stan explains of the healing nature of the remembrance wreath laid in honor during the holidays. “When you take the time to get to know and support the Gold Star and Blue Star families in your workplace and community you begin to understand the level of their sacrifice. Once you understand that sacrifice, you understand Wreaths Across America and the mission to remember, honor and teach.”
Thank you, Stan and J.B. Hunt Transport Services, Inc. for your patriotism and tireless support of Wreaths Across America. You can hear more from Stan 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.
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."