Wreaths Across America's Trucking Tributes Presents Gold Star Dad Mike Stansbery and JB Hunt
The Wreaths Across America mission to remember, honor, and teach would not be possible without the transportation industry. Veterans’ wreaths move by planes, trains, and livestock trailers, but trucks and their professional drivers the lion’s share of America’s respect. For the past few years, Wreaths Across America has highlighted their steadfast commitment in the “Trucking Tributes” feature online and on Wreaths Across America Radio.
Many of these drivers are veterans, and they tell us the truckload of Veterans’ wreaths is the most important cargo they transport in their careers. One such driver is USMC (ret.) and Gold Star Dad, Mike Stansbery, who drives for JB Hunt. Mike’s first year of involvement with Wreaths Across America started when he and COO for JB Hunt, Craig Harper, made a run from Nashville to Memphis to do a key exchange with another driver who took the wreaths on to Lowell, Arkansas. The next year, Mike was flown to New Jersey, where he and another JB Hunt driver connected to come to Maine for a load of wreaths destined for Arlington National Cemetery where Mike’s son Michael is buried.
While drivers are in Maine waiting for their trucks to be loaded, many take the opportunity to tour the National Wreaths Across America Museum and visit the tip land to tag a family tree. It was during this time when Wreaths Across America first met Mike personally. “I got to meet other drivers, and so many of them were veterans. It was kind of like that military brotherhood thing again that kicked in for me anyway. It was very well coordinated and a great experience for me and an incredible honor to do it.”
“The day I tagged a tree for my son Michael, Morrill Worcester was there, and I remember him asking me for permission to tip the tree I had just selected for Michael’s dog tags. I chuckled and said, ‘Well yes, sir, this is your tree,’ and he corrected me and said, ‘No, no, now it’s Michael’s tree.’ I’ve told so many people that story; it’s so moving. I tell people my son’s got a tree up in Maine, and wreaths made from his tree may go anyplace in the country to honor another. It’s a really cool story, and I love to share it.” He also likes to share his son’s story too. “Michael was a good, all-around, all-American kid. He was very patriotic. I’m not sure if he got that from me because I served in the Marine Corps, but he always loved the military and history. When he was in the second grade and was asked about his future, he wrote, “I will be in the Army, I will go into battle and have a bunch of men with me to help, and I will save people from trouble.” Mike explains there’s a long family history of military service. “My Dad was a WW II Marine veteran, and I served six years in the Marine Corps serving in Desert Storm. It’s a great honor to serve this country.”
Michael Lane Stansbery, Jr. enlisted in the Army and went into artillery with the 4th Infantry Division stationed out of Fort Carson in Colorado. He served a year in Iraq, and when he returned home, he transferred closer to home to Fort Campbell in Kentucky. While his parents were relieved to have him closer to home, what they didn’t know was Michael decided to wave his dwell time and was being deployed to Afghanistan. Mike shared, “He just did what he felt he needed to do for his family and for his country.” Fifty-one days later, Michael was killed in action (KIA) by an improvised explosive device (IED). Michael Stansbery is laid to rest in Section 60 at Arlington National Cemetery. “My son’s the hero. He paid the price.”
Mike was given another opportunity with Wreaths Across America at Arlington National Cemetery when he was asked by Wreaths Across America’s Founder, Morrill Worcester, to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Thank you, Mike, for your service and sacrifice for our nation.
You can hear Mike’s full Trucking Tributes interview here.
Trucking Tributes is heard exclusively on Wreaths Across America Radio every Tuesday at 11:00 AM EST and again at 4:00 PM EST.