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.
Wreaths Across America's mission objectives are for the living and the nation's trucking industry exemplifies that statement with steadfast pride and honor.
Since 1991, Gretchen L. Jackson has been working her way up in the trucking industry in Joplin, Missouri and today she holds the title of Senior Manager of Driver Recruiting for CFI, a dry-van truckload transportation company.
"Wreaths Across America is near to my heart," Gretchen shares. "I don't personally have any military service background but my grandfather, James K. Maupin served under General George S. Patton and he was laid to rest at his request in Arlington National Cemetery in 2006. We also took my grandmother there when she passed away. It's such an honor to have them buried there and they had ceremonies with full honors. It was so meticulous and emotional."
Gretchen says having that personal connection with Arlington is very meaningful but the cemetery is a long way from Joplin, Missouri.
"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.
"This company has always been a supporter of Wreaths Across America through thick and thin and we've of course done the truckload transports of wreaths but we've never had it in the plan for anyone to attend. My Mother had to pay for her trip but CFI covered the expenses for me to go back to Arlington."
Gretchen says while her mother waited in the line of volunteers to get wreaths from a truck she took a moment to witness what was unfolding around her at other gravesites.
"The emotion was intense," Gretchen recalls. "There was a gentleman obviously mourning over a parent's grave and he kneeled down and touched the stone and was praying over it and talking to it and then he went to the other side and did the same thing. I watched a lady who brought a blanket and coffee and she set a coffee cup on top of the headstone and she just sat there and visited with the person. Just then, some Blackhawks flew over and a bunch of leaves were sucked up into the air. The leaves started to slowly settle down over us. My grandmother was a horticulturist so it was such a peaceful moment for both my mom and me, and we knew they were right there with us. Wreaths Across America and CFI afforded us that opportunity."
Gretchen says the "power of the remembrance wreath" was all around them that day in Arlington National Cemetery.
Professional driver George Henderson has been with CFI just shy of ten years, working as a local driver in Houston, Texas for a little over seven years. During the Vietnam War, George spent some time in the United States Naval Reserve. As with many people of George's generation, it's not uncommon to find a rich military service history in their background. Both of his parents enlisted in the Army Air Corps and served during World War II. His father, George B. Henderson was a Norden Bomb Sight technician.
"My aunt was married to a career military officer and they did the occupation of Germany and the occupation of Japan. My wife's father was a POW taken by a German tank crew during World War II."
Since 2010, George has transported a truck load of respect to the Houston National Cemetery and the Woodlawn Funeral Home and Cemetery, also in Houston.
George says his heart was touched by Wreaths Across America when it reminded Americans of the importance of the mission to remember, honor, and teach by using a quote about dying twice. The first time when our heart stops beating and the second time when our name is spoken aloud for the last time.
"When you're my age, that concept really gives you something to think about," George says. "We stand on the shoulders of everybody behind us and remembering their legacy is important stuff. We owe these people a huge debt. Things would be very, very, very different for us if those folks had not joined up to serve and do their part."
Thank you, Gretchen, George and the entire team at CFI for your patriotism and tireless support of the Wreaths Across America mission to remember, honor and teach.
You can hear more from Gretchen, George 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.
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."
From our standpoint, it's a relatively small thing to do, and we're proud to be a part of the mission."
"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.