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 introduce you to the men and women of the industry who make the mission possible.
When Courtney George began her new position within Saia LTL Freight’s human resources department, she shared what a wonderful experience she’d previously had as a wreath-laying volunteer for Wreaths Across America – an opportunity she thought Saia employees would like to be a part of as well.
"We have over 9-thousand employees across the country, many of who are military veterans," explains Saia's Executive Vice President and Chief Customer Officer, Ray Ramu. "When she explained to us what Wreaths Across America is and does, it was a no-brainer for me that we would get involved."
Courtney's first involvement as a WAA Volunteer was back in 2008 when she participated in National Wreath Day at Arlington National Cemetery. She described the experience as witnessing "the eighth wonder of the world" when thousands of people joined in to help lay veterans' remembrance wreaths on the headstones of our fallen and said their names aloud.
"National Wreath Laying day is to honor our country’s heroes, and there is an energy you can feel in the air that’s indescribable," Courtney shares. "As I have said, wreath-laying day in ANC should be the eighth wonder of the world. It’s amazing to watch the people of our country come together, no matter how bad the weather may be, and 50,000+ people there to lay wreaths on every headstone and in the columbarium."
Her volunteer work with Wreaths Across America took on a very personal touch in 2016.
"It was roughly twenty degrees outside," Courtney recalls. "The metro had limited service because it had iced the night before. I was with a group of friends from the industry, but I had a mission for this wreath-laying day. I had promised my sister I would place wreaths for her. Unfortunately, Emily’s father in law was at the end of his battle with cancer, and he had one thing he wanted to see, which was ANC for wreath-laying day, and to place wreaths for his parents. For his last Christmas, I was lucky enough to show him pictures from the event, and most importantly show him the placed wreaths."
2017 was Saia's first year of involvement with Wreaths Across America and their trucks and drivers delivered America's respect to Pinelawn and Calverton National Cemeteries on Long Island.
"It was pretty emotional for me," Ray explains." Both my father and uncle are buried in Calverton so being able to participate in an event like this and have my two daughters with me made it quite a family event."
Ray's father, Jack Ramu served in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War and his uncle Louis Ramu served during the same period in the U.S. Navy.
"It was a teaching moment for me with my girls not only because their memories of their Grandfather and my uncle was faint, but they saw the value of community service. Whether it's through volunteering with Wreaths or something else, giving back is helping people to do better in this world."
Saia provided direct transport of veterans' remembrance wreaths to the Long Island cemeteries, and they supported the cross-dock operations servicing even more cemeteries throughout the country. In 2018, Ray says Saia looks to expand its involvement with Wreaths Across America.
"With thousands of employees throughout the country we know we can play a bigger role. Wreaths Across America is a great fit because we can participate in it together as a company connecting all of our locations for a great cause."
You can hear more from Ray and our other patriots in our "Trucking Tributes" feature on Wreaths Across America Radio Tuesdays at 11:00 AM and again at 4:00 PM Eastern.
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.