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.
Last December was the first time Ashley Furniture Industries, Inc. (Ashley) participated in a Wreaths Across America ceremony and we have U.S. Army veteran Steve Ralston to thank for their involvement. Steve heard about the mission to remember, honor, and teach through a previous employer and when he joined Ashley Furniture Industries, he eagerly introduced Ashley's Founder and Chairman of the Board, Ron Wanek, and President and CEO, Todd Wanek, to the cause.
"Ashley and the Wanek family are very supportive of veterans and veteran’s causes," explains Steve. “After learning of the program, the Wanek’s were very excited to get involved in Wreaths Across America and asked if I would help lead the charge in implementing this within our company.”
Steve is the Director of Transportation Safety for Ashley Distribution Services. He served for thirteen years as a paratrooper and medic in the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne Division. The same division in which Sir Stanly Wojtusik served during the Battle of the Bulge in World War II.
"Our first ceremony was last December in the Arcadia Soldiers Walk Memorial in Wisconsin," recalls Steve. "It was frigid cold and snowing, and I thought even as cold as we were it was nothing compared to what our soldiers and heroes went through during the Battle of the Bulge. That was my unit that was there, so the mission objective to remember really hit home that day."
In addition to the ceremony at Soldiers Walk, Ashley’s Distribution Services arranged the pick up for a load of remembrance wreaths in Maine to be delivered to nine different cemeteries in Mississippi and Louisiana according to Steve.
"Having a culture that supports our Armed Forces as well as having many of our employees that either currently serve or are Veterans, you were able to feel a sense of pride in our involvement throughout our facilities,” said Steve.
Himself a member of American Legion Post 17 in Arcadia, Steve encourages other veteran's organizations in Wisconsin to join Ashley Furniture's efforts on national Wreaths Across America Day.
"We involved the various Posts from the Trempealeau County Council, and when we laid the wreath on the different memorials at Soldier's Walk, we had a veteran from each post who served in that time frame lay the wreath at that memorial."
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.
"Some people see a wreath, and it's a wreath. But until you have been involved and know what makes Wreaths Across America you have no clue. When you go by a cemetery, and you see wreaths everywhere and especially when you see all of Arlington covered, it's impactful," Steve shares. "When you realize 1.2 million of our fallen were honored last year, you look at a wreath differently. I don't even look at my decorative wreath at home the same way I do a remembrance wreath."
Steve says when he initially checked out the Wreaths Across America locations map on our website there were not very many wreath icons indicating location coordinators in Wisconsin but he's hopeful media coverage from their events has reached more people with the message of the mission.
You can look for Steve at this year's Ashley for The Arts Festival where he'll be staffing an information table about Wreaths Across America.
Thank you, Steve Ralston and the Ashley Furniture family for your patriotism and tireless support of the Wreaths Across America mission to remember, honor and teach.
If you don't catch Steve at the festival, you can hear more from him 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.