"We are not put on this earth for ourselves but are placed here for each other. If you are there always for others, then in time of need, someone will be there for you." - Jeff Warner
Wreaths Across America understands our military is always there in the time of need and the mission to remember the fallen, honor those who serve and their families, and teach younger generations the value of freedom offers our volunteers the opportunity to be there for them. As the WAA Stem to Stone program motto states, "You stood to serve, we stand to support."
No other organization unites the amount of committed and compassionate volunteers as Wreaths Across America, and we applaud their remarkable community service as they work countless hours to be sure no hometown hero is ever forgotten.
Nicole Pelletier is one of those volunteers. She's a thirty-one-year-old mother of two who finds the time for substitute teaching and community service.
Nicole and her husband started volunteering with Wreaths Across America while living in Maryland and joined the wreath-laying effort at Arlington National Cemetry for three years before moving to Massachusetts.
"I searched in our area, and there was nothing immediate with everything an hour or more away," Nicole explains. "So I said, hey why not, let's start a ceremony here."
Nicole says because she's a somewhat shy person she knew her greatest challenge was going to be fundraising for wreath sponsorships, but she persevered and moved forward as the new WAA Location Coordinator for the Fairview Cemetery in Westford Massachusetts.
"I knew nothing about fundraising and was way out of my comfort zone, so I took out books from the library, I got in touch with our local representative who gave me ideas, I even reached out to the local school's parent-teacher organization because I knew they had experience. I have to admit though because of the warmth and excitement around the Wreaths Across America mission it got a lot easier as I went along."
Nicole's military connections are an additional motivating factor. Her Grandfather, PFC Frank Fazio served in the USMC during the Korean War. Her cousins both serve, one who will be deployed soon to the Middle East and her husband works for a civilian company serving the Department of Defense.
Nicole says her efforts fundraising for Wreaths Across America always brings about personal stories that often come from complete strangers.
"I've had people open up to me and say, 'Oh my Father is buried in that cemetery' and some veterans have said to me, 'I'm so glad someone will remember me when I'm gone."
It was last season when eight inches of snow fell on Fairview Cemetery on Wreaths Across America Day, and the volunteer scheduled to lay a wreath to represent the U.S. Coast Guard during the ceremony was unable to attend. That's when a car rolled in, and two high school aged boys got out of a car with Coast Guard plates. When Nicole asked the woman driving about the plates she informed Nicole her husband and the boys' father was deployed overseas with the U.S. Coast Guard.
"I thought it was such a good time to have this Coast Guard family show up just in the nick of time and I asked if the boys would be willing to place the ceremonial wreath during the opening ceremony, and they did a great job," recalls Nicole. "Just to see the next generation stepping up and people I didn't know going out of their way traveling through eight inches of snow to volunteer brought tears to my eyes as I watched them lay that wreath."
Nicole's whole family gets involved in the Wreaths Across America effort. Her mother who works full-time donated several hours last year hand-painting signs.
Nicole says she's thankful for those fellow Location Coordinators who have helped her and she's honored to provide the same support to those who might be thinking about starting a Wreaths Across America ceremony in their community cemetery.
As a former Mainer familiar with Rick Charette, Nicole was thrilled to learn this year's theme is I'm an American, Yes I Am!
Nicole says her goal in 2017 is to cover all of Fairview Cemetery and adding the historic Russian Brotherhood Cemetery as well and that her local Kiwanis Club and others have been supporting her efforts to make sure no one's forgotten in December.
Just as we did Judy Carlile, Charlotte Chism Waldrum and Diana Pitts Wreaths Across America gives Location Coordinator Nicole Pelletier a "high five" for her volunteer efforts to remember the fallen, honor those who serve and teach younger generations the value of freedom.
If you're in Nicole's neck of the woods in Massachusetts consider joining her team of hard-working volunteers, or show your respect through community service at Arlington National Cemetery or at any of our other 1,228 participating cemeteries throughout the country.
"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.