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, with over 3,700 participating locations, in addition to Arlington National Cemetery, transportation logistics are immense.
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.
Steve Talbot is a professional driver with Epes Transport LLC and a veteran of the United States Army. Steve said his military service came about unusually. “I was seventeen years old and not out of high school yet when my parents decided they’d move from Massachusetts to California, and I didn’t want to go with them,” he shared. “So, I quit school, and my parents signed the papers for me to sign up.” That marked the beginning of Steve’s truck driving profession.
Steve served for six years, from 1980-1986. “The first unit I was in was a combat-heavy engineer battalion, then when I went to Germany, it was the 41st Transportation Company.” It was in Germany where Steve earned his diploma, and the Army helped him develop skills to bring with him to the private sector when he transitioned back to civilian life. “Germany was nice. I mean I hated it of course when I first got there because it was so different, but once you got out and about you could appreciate where you were. Their cities are so clean.”
After leaving the military, Steve eventually got his CDL, and he’s been driving now for Epes for thirteen years. “Epes has two military trucks,” Steve explained. “They’re wrapped trucks, and I drive one of them, and Marvin Garvey drives the other one, so that’s how we got picked to do Wreaths Across America. The first year I went up to Maine, I picked up wreaths for Raleigh National Cemetery, the second year I went, I got to do Arlington; and last year, I did Raleigh, NC again. Marvin and I switch out from year to year.” So many drivers tell us a load of veterans’ wreaths is one of the most important loads of their careers, and as Steve points out, delivering that precious cargo can be a little stressful. “One year I did Arlington, we had to be there to load the trucks in at a certain time and place Friday,” Steve recalled. “We got hammered that year with a storm, and I had to pull over. I got buried in snow at a travel plaza and just had to rock the truck back and forth and barrel out of there, but I made it! All the cemeteries are important,” Steve explained. “But Arlington tops the cake. It was the highlight of my career.”
Thank you, Steve, and the entire team at Epes, for supporting the mission. You can hear more of Steve’s interview on Trucking Tributes, listened to every Truckin’ Tuesday exclusively on Wreaths Across America Radio.