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.
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.