Professional drivers and trucking companies give so much to the nation. Without the transportation industry, 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 2021, to be specific, 525 truckloads of wreaths were delivered, representing 390 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, that unity makes it possible for Americans to honor millions of veterans laid to rest here at home and overseas. With over 3,136 participating locations, in addition to Arlington National Cemetery, transportation logistics are immense.
Many of these drivers are veterans and say the truckload of fresh, balsam-fir wreaths is the most precious cargo they transport in their careers. Wreaths Across America highlights their steadfast commitment in the “Trucking Tributes” feature online and on Wreaths Across America Radio.
Johnny Chestnut is a professional driver with Saddle Creek Logistics Services out of Lakeland, Florida, and he fell in love with trucking from an early age. “My Dad was a truck driver back in the sixties and seventies,” Johnny explained. “I have a younger brother, and as kids, every summer, we took turns riding in the truck with him from Florida to New York. I just loved it. I always dreamed of driving a truck, and the good Lord provided the dream, and here I am. I started driving in 1976 right after graduation, and it’s been a blessing.”
His involvement with the Wreaths Across America mission dates back to 2008. “A Vietnam veteran, Jack Sellars, was a driver who worked with us and a motorcycle rider who had a motorcycle club in Lakeland with many veterans. They read about it on the internet, reached out to Morrill Worcester, who told them they needed to ‘adopt’ a cemetery, and chose Florida National at Bushnell. We laid seven wreaths that first day in a typical rainstorm, and that’s how it started. My wife and I thought they just laid wreaths, but I was wrong. They have a wonderful military ceremony as well. I don’t care if you’re in Arlington or Houston, Florida. If you don’t leave one of those ceremonies with a tear in your eye, then there’s something wrong.”
Johnny never served in the military, but his dad served in the Korean War and his brother during Vietnam. He says he’s proud of Saddle Creek for supporting the mission. “Mr. David Lyons, the owner of the company, who is now passed, was a veteran and big supporter. We have three dedicated, decked-out trailers. One is for Jacksonville, and the other two are for Florida National Cemetery. We carry those trailers around probably two or three months before December to show people what we do, how we do it, and the community gets behind us. I’ve had the pleasure of going to Maine to see how the wreaths are made and haul them from Maine to Florida for our cemetery. When you pull into the gate at the cemetery, and the people are waiting for you to come in with the wreaths, it’s such a great feeling,” Johnny expressed. “It makes you want to break down and cry. They gave up their day to be there to lay a wreath for a veteran. It’s not just a veteran either. It’s someone’s family member.”
Johnny says the trailers catch people’s attention, and they stop asking, what is Wreaths Across America? “I guess I’m like a preacher. I want to tell them the whole story about it. It’s important to teach our children and grandchildren about where our freedom comes from, and if it were not for those veterans, who knows where we’d be right now. I have four grown sons, and they make it a priority to get off work and lay wreaths with us. My wife's involved, and It’s become a family affair. Our goal is to cover our cemetery fully, and I believe one day we will.”
Thank you, Johnny, and Saddle Creek Logistics Services for all you do to support the mission! You can hear Johnny’s full interview on Trucking Tributes heard every Trucking Tuesday at 11:00 AM and again at 4:00 PM (eastern) exclusively on Wreaths Across America Radio.