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.
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.
The holidays are traditionally celebrated with music so tune into WAA Radio throughout the holidays to hear musical Season's Greetings from some of the finest musicians in America!
"I was only 21 at the time, and we didn't know what we had come upon. The conditions were horrible, and there were all those people in striped pajamas."
"This contribution, like the one we made last year, will help provide an opportunity for professional drivers to transport wreaths across the United States.
Rhonda says she's experienced the "power of the wreath" watching people react to her daughter's presentations.
The telegram from the Department of War said that Albert and two other men had been shot down near Wollseifen, Germany, on Dec. 12, and that they had been missing since.
Yes! There's still time to sponsor a veterans' remembrance wreath in time for National Wreaths Across America Day.
"We were replacements," explained Charles. "My best friend Luke Moore and I went over together. He was a First scout, and I was a Second scout. We were taking a town when we were shot at by a sniper..."
Wreaths Across America is forever grateful for the thousands of volunteers who place veterans' remembrance wreaths on the headstones of our fallen as they say their names aloud every December. Remember, we are guests on the hallowed grounds of participating cemeteries and we ask that you honor their rules and regulations. If you're volunteering at Arlington this year, here's what you need to know.
Wreaths Across America announces open loads available as the Honor Fleet expands to transport America's Respect.
"I remember back then when we were told several times Vincent wouldn't make it through the night and I went to the chapel and said, 'God is there anything I can do to change your mind? He's our only son."
"One thing I will never forget is getting into Arlington and it was a cold, rainy day with freezing rain, and I remember looking around at all the empty headstones thinking to myself oh my God how are we going to do this."
"As part of our Wreaths Across America project, we work with the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts, the Explorers, Young Marines, and sometimes 4H members," Mike explains. "We try to engage our groups the way that I think the founder of Wreaths Across America intended."
The Civil Air Patrol Cadets meant the world to Rick. For three years he accompanied cadets to Arlington National Cemetery and assisted with laying wreaths at the cemetery. This trip changed the lives of many cadets.
"It was so moving coming down I95 because people were waving flags, honking their horns, giving us thumbs up, and saluting us."
"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."