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.
"When you hear of a parent whose lost a son or daughter protecting our country there's no greater gift than to remember that person with the laying of a wreath. It's the mission and stories that you hear that make it so easy to be involved with Wreaths Across America."
Debbie Sparks is the Vice President of Development for the Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) and says that gift of remembrance and support for Gold Star families is the most compelling reason she and the truckload members volunteer for Wreaths Across America. The other is the trucking industry's ability to efficiently transport commodities as part of their normal scope of business.
"It's the way the trucking industry works," Debbie explains. "When your customer needs you to go from Point A to Point B and you get to Point B, you pick up another load. When we give the motor carriers enough time to arrange it, they can deliver a load to the northeastern part of the country and then run up to Maine to pick up wreaths as their backhaul."
Debbie learned of Wreaths Across America through Barry Pottle of Pottle's Transportation, who now serves on the Board of Directors of Wreaths Across America. In 2012, Debbie invited Barry to speak to TCA membership about the mission to remember, honor, and teach. The partnership has been growing and evolving ever since.
"When Barry made that first plea I want to say we had eleven trucks at Arlington National Cemetery and this past year, for the third year in a row we hit our maximum of sixty-five trucks. When we started, there were about six hundred cemeteries across the country, and this year we were close to twelve hundred."
As more volunteers step up to the plate across this great nation to remember our fallen heroes and support military families through Wreaths Across America, the more intricate the logistics become. Considering the short window of time from when the fresh hand-made balsam fir remembrance wreaths are made in Maine to the time their sponsored and placed on the headstones across the country on National Wreaths Across America day in December, it's a massive effort.
While it's often difficult to get people to sponsor their remembrance wreaths earlier in the year, Debbie explains that would be extremely helpful because with this process timing is everything.
"There are three facilities in Columbia Falls, Maine where trucks can load up with wreaths," explains Debbie of the dispatching responsibilities. "We have to make sure we're not sending all the trucks to the loading docks at the same time. There are three major cross-docks in Washington Park, IL, Kansas City, MO, and Richland, MS, and they fill up warehouses where additional carriers come in and pick up to deliver to the west coast and the south. All those truck loads go out first and then we have to get the convoy trucks ready to roll. The Friday before National Wreaths Across America Day trucks are staged in Arlington National Cemetery.
As Wreaths Across America continues to grow the trucking and logistics expertise needed to get the job done expand as well.
"We're always conscientious about the carbon footprint we leave so we have to be sure the process is safe, efficient, and compliant with federal regulations," Debbie explains. "We want to make sure it's fuel efficient and a good run, that we've got the truck full, that a rested driver is ready to go, and all that plays into the coordination effort."
Debbie says it's motivating to see the can-do attitude and camaraderie of the trucking industry whether it comes from associations like TCA, or companies like Tyson Foods, or moving and storage companies helping to coordinate the "final mile" like Arpin they are all willing to volunteer time, equipment, and expertise to the Wreaths Across America mission.
Thank you, Debbie Sparks and TCA for your patriotism and tireless support of Wreaths Across America. You can hear more from Debbie in our "Trucking Tributes" on Wreaths Across America Radio weekdays at 11:00 AM and again at 4:00 PM Eastern.
"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."
We are humbled by the hundreds of thousands of people who get involved every year on National Wreaths Across America Day at Arlington National Cemetery and at over twelve hundred participating cemeteries in paying tribute to our veterans. One of those passionate and dedicated individuals is Ellen O'Neil Fuller.
Not only does Wade Gunter place a remembrance wreath on the headstone of a fallen service member at Arlington National Cemetery (ANC), he says their name aloud when he props it against the stone. It's what Wade does next that takes the Wreaths Across America mission to remember, honor, and teach to a higher level.