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.
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.
Each live, balsam remembrance wreath is a gift of respect and appreciation, donated by a private citizen or organization and placed on the graves by volunteers as a small gesture of gratitude for the freedoms Americans enjoy.
In just a few days, Paulette and her fellow Troop Greeters will welcome veterans, Gold Star families, and other traveling dignitaries who are part of the Annual Wreath Escort to Arlington National Cemetery.
Grand Marshals – Vietnam Medal of Honor Recipient, Colonel Roger Donlon, U.S. Army Special Forces (Retired) and his wife, Norma, a Vietnam-era Gold Star wife – will lead the caravan as it travels down the East Coast stopping at schools, memorials, and other locations along the way.
Driver Pat Wortham is an independent contractor for Dart Transit and a member of the Wreaths Across America honor fleet. He also has a rich history of military service in his family.