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.
The Wreaths Across America mission spreads to others by word-of-mouth from the individuals who get involved, and it's the trucking industry that connects all those volunteer efforts with the fallen heroes who deserve to be remembered for their sacrifice.
As we've been showcasing our professional drivers and their companies in our "Trucking Tributes" series, we've come to understand the foundation of strong family ties, hard work ethic, patriotism and pride from which these companies have evolved as they move America, and over a million veterans' remembrance wreaths.
Cowan Systems, LLC., out of Baltimore, Maryland is one such family-owned business. Cowan's Marketing and Social Media Specialist Brandon Tomlinson tells us Joe Cowan is the CEO and owner of the transport company started by his father in 1924. Today, Cowan Systems, LLC. covers many facets of the transportation industry with terminals all across the country, sixteen hundred company drivers, an intermodal division, a single-source staffing and logistics agency, and warehousing.
Brandon started coordinating Cowan's Wreaths Across America activities about a year and a half ago. In addition to the three truck loads of wreaths they transport from Maine to fourteen different cemeteries in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Maryland willing Cowan's employees hop on a bus to volunteer to lay wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery.
"When I first started to coordinate our efforts with Debbie Sparks I honestly thought it was going to be like pulling teeth to get twenty volunteers," Brandon recalls. "It wasn't like that at all! It was so easy to recruit volunteers for the mission we actually had to turn people away. We wound up with over sixty people and had to charter a bus! It really speaks to the type of people who make up Team Cowan. It was quite a memorable journey because there was an ice storm last year and we were a little late getting there, but it was a wonderful day."
Brandon says Cowan's President Dennis Morgan feels very passionate about Wreaths Across America and it's a cause near and dear to many of the employees some of whom are veterans.
Cowan Systems, Inc. sponsors Section 7A of Arlington National Cemetery which is the final resting place for over one hundred and twenty fallen heroes. Among them five Generals, six Congressional Medal of Honor Recipients and space shuttle Challenger's Commander Michael Smith. They also play a huge role in the wreath cleanup process by hauling away several loads of cardboard boxes.
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.
"Our SSL Operations Manager Danny Bageant is a veteran and Purple Heart recipient. I spent a lot of time with him that day, and it was really amazing to hear some of his stories of some of the guys he had served with who were buried there. It made it so memorable for me to spend time with someone had been overseas during Operation Desert Storm, and he could explain to me the military lifestyle and reasons why things are they way they are in the cemetery."
It's that kind of sharing and connection that makes the Wreaths Across America mission so valuable for individuals like Brandon who will, in turn, encourage community service to teach younger generations the value of liberty.
"If we can remember and honor what they did to give us our freedoms it's easier to teach our children. I'm excited to go back this year."
Thank you, Cowan Systems, LLC. for your patriotism and tireless support of the Wreaths Across America mission to remember, honor and teach.
You can hear more from Brandon 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.