Wreaths Across America grows every year powered by patriotic citizens who make up one of the largest volunteer forces known to any nonprofit organization. Each of these individuals is genuine in their motivation to serve the mission to remember, honor, and teach. These volunteers understand the importance of history and the contributions of the men and women who came before us willing to answer our nation's call to duty.
Our volunteers are engaged as the #CountDowntoWreathDay is on and they're making very personal connections with the lives of our hometown heroes to be sure no one is forgotten.
Wreaths Across America volunteer Luann Waters would like to introduce you to Thomas Franklin Dillard one of her hometown heroes laid to rest with over 500 other veterans in Oaklawn Cemetery in Wynnewood, Oklahoma.
Luann learned of Thomas' history when her local paper, the Wynnewood Gazette, ran an article back in June. The article was written in 1945 by Thomas Dillard who served in World War II and was taken prisoner by the Germans during the Battle of the Bulge.
Luann tells us, Thomas' wife Ruby Ella is still living and grateful her husband's valor and sacrifice is honored annually with a veterans remembrance wreath.
Luann met Thomas Dillard before he passed away in 2011 and says in addition to being a military veteran who received the Purple Heart and Bronze Star, Thomas was an accomplished artist and Ruby Ella still has the very first painting Thomas did for her.
"To see what the symbolism of that fresh wreath means to Ruby and other family members is what motivates me," Luann explains.
It's also Luann's desire to preserve history to teach younger generations the value of our freedoms that keep her involved. As she and other volunteers research the stories behind those fallen hometown heroes, the information is being shared with the cemeteries and the historical society.
"Our historical society had a veterans exhibit that was up for about ten years and we took it down last year in hopes of revising it to include this new research information."
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 and encouraging others to join her efforts in researching veterans who may be buried there but are currently unknown to them.
"There are two other cemeteries in Wynnewood, and a woman has reached out to me to find out more about Wreaths Across America, and she's starting to research as well and reaching out to her church to get involved in sponsoring veterans remembrance wreaths," Luann explains.
It's just that kind of grassroots energy and commitment to saying their names that expands the Wreaths Across America mission to remember of fallen, honor those who serve and teach younger generations the value of freedom.
Luann says last year they were successful in getting more wreaths sponsored than the first year she started and that in itself has been a source of encouragement as she works to cover veterans headstones this year.
Luann and all of our remarkable volunteers are counting down to National Wreaths Across America Day, Saturday, December 16, 2017.
You can follow our Countdown To Wreath Day web shows on FaceBook and tune in to Wreaths Across America Radio at 10:00AM Eastern, Monday Through Friday for our special feature series: 100 Reasons Why We Remember, Honor and Teach; Count Down to Wreath Day.
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.