Professional drivers and trucking companies give so much to the nation. Without them, the Wreaths Across America mission to remember, honor, and teach would be nearly impossible. Veterans’ wreaths move by planes, trains, ships, and livestock trailers, but trucks and their professional drivers transport the lion’s share of America's respect. In 2022, to be specific, 609 truckloads of wreaths were delivered, representing 439 different carriers.
In November and December, one of the busiest periods of the year for the transportation sector, the Wreaths Across America mission brings drivers together in an effort of unparalleled unity. With a positive, “can-do” work ethic, these professionals make it possible for Americans to honor millions of veterans laid to rest at home and overseas. In 2023, transportation logistics are immense, with 4,000 participating locations, in addition to Arlington National Cemetery.
Many of these drivers are military veterans and say the truckload of fresh balsam-fir wreaths is the most precious cargo they transport in their careers. Wreaths Across America shares their stories and what motivates them to serve and succeed in the “Trucking Tributes” feature online and on Wreaths Across America Radio.
Two brothers who served in the U.S. Army, are champing at the bit because it’s October, and they know they’ll soon be called upon to carry out one of their favorite duties: hauling America’s respect in the form of veterans’ wreaths to awaiting volunteers at participating Wreaths Across America locations. The person who gets it all rolling at Heartland Express is Bob Peterson. “He’s pretty much the man,” exclaimed Bill Hoffmann, a professional driver for Heartland. “We pick up wreaths at a cross-dock in Fife, Washington, operated by Golden Services, and we bring them back to our yard in Tacoma. Bob Peterson coordinates with the maintenance personnel and gets the trailers loaded. I do eastern Washington, and my brother does around Seattle, and they split it up to make sure we’ve got all our stops covered with enough wreaths. If there are cemeteries we can’t get into, they’ll deliver them with a service truck. Our dispatch does an amazing job, and Bob’s heart is into the mission.”
Bill Hoffmann signed on with Heartland Express after his brother James, but Bill says he was the one to inform his brother that Heartland was participating in Wreaths Across America. Bill says military service in his family stretches back to his grandfather, who served in the Navy in World War I. Numerous uncles on his father’s side served in World War II, and his father was a U.S. Marine. “Us kids went into the Army. We saw what the Marine Corps can do to people,” Bill shared with a chuckle. “My drill instructors would scream in my face and say, why doesn’t this affect you, and I said, my dad was a Marine.”
The Wreaths Across America mission to remember, honor, and teach is a very personal one for him and his family. “My sister’s son, Staff Sergeant Christopher Webb, was KIA in Iraq,” Bill shared of their family’s personal sacrifice. “March 2007, his convoy vehicle got hit by an IED [improvised explosive device]. My sister does a lot of speaking as a Gold Star Mother to be sure his name is not forgotten.”
Bill explained how rewarding it’s been to work with other Wreaths volunteers. “I wouldn’t give any of them up. Even when I was four hours late because of an accident on the road, they were waving and so excited to see me arrive. The reception we get is incredible.”
Bill shared that he and his brother are grateful to Heartland. “Heartland doesn’t get anything out of this. They don’t have to do this, but they do.”
Thank you, Bill, James, and the entire team at Heartland Express for your support of the mission. You can hear Bill’s full interview on Trucking Tributes, listened to exclusively on Wreaths Across America Radio every Truckin’ Tuesday at 11:00 AM and again at 4:00 PM Eastern.