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.

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