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.
Anyone who really knows me knows that I am often a walking Wreaths Across America billboard. They will normally see me sporting a WAA-branded sweatshirt or t-shirt, my blue and green WAA wristband and my ever-present WAA baseball cap. I’m proud of my connection with WAA and love to promote what we do and why we do it.
That being said, I want to relate a recent encounter I had while standing in line at our local Social Security Administration (SSA) Office the other day.
Air Force Veteran*, Wayne Merritt, currently manages the Veterans Transportation Program based out of Wreaths Across America Headquarters in Maine. Monday thru Friday, Wayne travels to area towns in the Downeast region to pick up veterans and bring them to their doctors’ appointments. This is just one of the many free programs Wreaths Across America offers to veterans and their families.
Military children worry about their parent’s safety very day. These children face many challenges, frequent moves and lengthy separation due to trainings and deployments. They take on more responsibilities and worry about their parent every day.
"I really don't see it stopping, and we want people to tell us where they see it. Take pictures and videos when you check it out and share them with us on social media."
Debbie says she and the transportation team are excited about new and more efficient systems that will be in place for 2018 and beyond.
To come up with an accurate wreath count for sponsorships, great effort was taken to assure no one was forgotten.
As we approached, Morrill and I began to realize that here laid the body of a very important veteran that we had apparently overlooked for the past 26 years in our annual wreath placement.
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.