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.
"I've lost family members and friends serving in the military, so everything we do with Wreaths Across America is near and dear to our hearts."
Mike Eggleton Jr. is the Vice President of Raider Express, a family-owned refrigerated trucking company running two hundred and fifty trucks out of Fort Worth, Texas with additional offices in Hastings, Nebraska.
"I'm a third-generation trucker, "Mike explains. "My grandfather and father owned trucking companies. By the time I was eight years old, I was working in the office, and by twelve I was dispatching trucks. It's all I've ever known."
Following Mike's graduation from Texas Tech University, he started Raider Express where his father would eventually join him as did his brother also after his graduation from Texas Tech in 2001. The rest of the family business story as Mike puts it is, "history from there."
The last ten years of Raider Express's history has involved donating time and company resources to support Wreaths Across America. As many of our drivers and companies share with us, they were brought into the organization mission to remember, honor and teach through the Truckload Carriers Association.
"We have family members who are veterans, and we strongly support any veteran and any U.S. military we have out there. We wouldn't be the country we are today without the sacrifices of the great men and women who are out there every day for us."
While Mike has not personally served in the U.S. Armed Forces, however, his pride and respect for those who have run as deep as his family history of military service. Both of his grandfathers served in World War II, one of whom, David Rankin, was a mechanic for the Enola Gay. His other grandfather, Richard Eggleton was an infantry soldier in the U.S. Army and received a Purple Heart after taking a grenade the shoulder during combat on Okinawa.
One of Mike's close friends in college was Lt. Darryn Andrews who is now laid to rest in Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio. Lt. Andrews was one of six killed in action while serving in Afghanistan in 2009. His military service and death have been highly publicized in connection with the Bowe Bergdahl desertion, and subsequent Taliban prisoner swap news stories.
Mike explains what motivates him, his wife and his company's commitment to the mission.
"When it comes to Wreaths Across America, we don't do what we do for the applause of men; we do it because of how important it is to the Gold Star families we've connected with over the years."
Mike is a perfect example of how Wreaths Across America teaches younger generations about the sacrifices made for freedom by involving his three young children in the wreath-laying ceremonies.
"Last year the weather was terrible, and the kids were extremely cold with their hair covered in ice," Mike recalls. "They wanted to go home, but as soon as they saw the trucks and the volunteers showing up, they knew they could help too. It was easier to explain the meaning to my young son when he saw people laying the wreaths and saying their names."
Military veterans are valued employees at Raider Express in their offices, and among their professional drivers and according to Mike there's a waiting list within the company for drivers who want to haul America's respect.
"For years we've paid the driver's a week's vacation for doing it because it's out of the realm of what they need to make to help support their families. One of our drivers, Abel Cardona, is a Marine veteran, and this will be his third year participating now, and he forgoes that pay because he feels guilty taking it. Last year he had a student with him, and the student did the same thing because that student was so moved by the Wreaths Across America effort."
Thank you, Mike Eggleon Jr. and Raider Express for your patriotism and tireless support of the Wreaths Across America mission to remember, honor and teach.
You can hear more from Mike and our other patriots in our "Trucking Tributes" on Wreaths Across America Radio at 11:00 AM and again at 4:00 PM Eastern Monday-Friday.
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.
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."